July 31, 2014

Elyria
Sunny
79°F
test

State yanks LaGrange Building Department certification

LAGRANGE — After complaints from contractors and residents, the state’s Board of Building Standards voted to revoke the village’s commercial and residential building department certifications.

Complaints ranged from “incorrect actions” related to findings of noncompliance to “inadequate and non-retrievable records,” according to the findings of the investigation.

Village records are improperly kept at the Michigan Avenue home of chief building official Kenneth Klingshirn, who lives in Elyria and 12 years ago surrendered his state licenses in an agreement to retire, according to the investigation’s conclusions.

Residents and others involved in the inspection process were required to drive to Klingshirn’s home to seek records and were asked to be available after 5 p.m. or later, according to a report prepared by Jan Sokolnicki.

One resident, David Askew, purchased a recently constructed home that wasn’t providing adequate heat and cooling, the report stated.

Askew asked the village for permit and approval information and was sent documents indicating Klingshirn had directed the village zoning administrator to issue the occupancy certificate, the report stated.

When asked for inspection records, Klingshirn indicated that the inspections weren’t “called in,” so they must not have occurred, the report stated.

“The lack of record keeping and non-compliant procedures results in failures of the system to assure inspections and tests are performed and approvals are given only when appropriate,” the report concluded. “This failure has resulted in one property owner with a significantly inadequate heating and cooling system.”

In emails to the village, Askew indicated he was contacting an attorney and had estimates ranging from $42,000 to $47,000 for heating and cooling and another $15,000 to $20,000 for a roof.

In one instance, Sokolnicki wrote that an owner of a building in LaGrange and one of his tenants indicated it was so difficult dealing with Klingshirn and the village’s processes that “after a year of attempting to work out the problems and spending unnecessary funds, they finally gave up and moved to another jurisdiction.”

When the state board requested data on residential and nonresidential projects, six months later Klingshirn “had done nothing to improve the system, make records available to the jurisdictions or change their practices,” the report stated.

“Although LaGrange has a very accurate and reliable method of records related to zoning and other matters pertaining to homes and businesses within the village, they have no idea what the status of any project is once they send the individual to Mr. Klingshirn,” the report stated.

The report concluded that the village was not providing the service intended because it has a building department “exclusively dependent on a person who is not certified by the Board and does not follow the Board’s rules related to the required operation of a certified building department.”

The “on-paper” residential building official, Tom Horseman, and its commercial building official, George Poulos, are paid by Klingshirn to perform inspections and plan review duties, according to the report.

It stated that inspections are performed after a normal construction workday, which results in unnecessary time on the job for contractors or inspections occurring without any “interface between the inspector and the on-site representatives.”

A letter from the Board of Building Standards stated the board voted to place Horseman and Poulos on probation as well as revoke the village Building Department’s certifications.

Klingshirn, 80, was unavailable for comment, and the phone number listed on village documents appears to be disconnected.

The report, dated Sept. 14 and sent to the village Sept. 20, is under review by village officials including its solicitor, according to Mayor Kim Strauss, who complained that the village was never given an opportunity to address any problems.

Strauss said the village will likely fight the move to decertify the village’s commercial and residential Building Department.

If keeping records at Klingshirn’s home is a problem, space will be found at village facilities, the mayor said.

Strauss said he was aware from news reports that Klingshirn had some issues while working for Oberlin but wasn’t aware of all of the circumstances.

The goal was laudable — to create a commercial building department so builders would not have to work with a regional office in Akron, Strauss said.

Klingshirn, a former building official with the cities of Oberlin and Amherst, surrendered his building official and building inspector licenses on Aug. 1, 2000, in an agreement with the state to retire, according to a copy of Klingshirn’s affidavit attached to the report.

Klingshirn was building official in Oberlin in the 1990s when the board “determined that serious violations of the Board’s rules occurred and ordered the decertification of the city of Oberlin,” according to Sokolnicki’s report.

During the multiple court proceedings that followed, an appellate court remanded the case back to the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, which indicated in its final summary that it was inappropriate to decertify the city of Oberlin because of Klingshirn.

Klingshirn later volunteered to retire and surrender his certifications for Building Official and Building Inspector, according to the report.

After that occurred, he changed his business by contracting with certified inspectors, according to the report.

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.