Pittsboro, NC – In a recent Chatham County Commissioners meeting, Jake Muehlbach, a Chatham County resident expressed his frustration with the approval of a construction project that violated over 30 building codes and displayed major structural issues. The incident highlighted the contentious issue of immunity, leaving homeowners at risk without accountability.
Unsafe Construction and Immunity
During the July 17, 2023, Chatham County Commissioners meeting, Jake Muehlbach raised concerns about a construction project that was approved despite numerous code violations and glaring structural problems. During his three minute public input session, Jake emphasized that immunity did not absolve the builders of responsibility but rather shielded them from being held accountable for their actions. Immunity in this context does not imply that the construction was done correctly, but rather, it prevents the builders from being legally responsible for any damages caused by their mistakes.
The Role of County Permits and Inspections
The core issue that surfaced during the meeting was the inadequate oversight during the permitting and inspection processes. It was revealed that the construction in question should have required an engineer’s approval, but this essential step was overlooked. The approval process should be robust and strictly adhere to building codes and safety standards. The incident raises questions about the competence of the inspection system and the need for qualified inspectors to safeguard residents’ welfare.
The Call for Accountability
Mr. Muehlbach called for accountability and requested investigations into Chatham County’s handling of the situation. He questioned the financial statements released by Chatham County, especially the inclusion of insurance coverage for situations where immunity is claimed. Jake sought transparency in the county’s actions and asked for an internal investigation into the actions of the County Manager and the Director of Permitting regarding the unsafe construction project.
Understanding County Immunity and its Implications
General Session 153 a-435 grants County Commissioners the authority to decide the scope and extent of insurance coverage provided. This also establishes the automatic waiver of immunity upon the purchase of insurance. While immunity might seem like a protective measure for the county, it can leave homeowners vulnerable, especially when construction projects have major defects. The debate surrounding immunity raises questions about its effectiveness and whether it is serving the interests of the residents or the county.
Proposals for Change
During his presentation, Jake proposed specific changes to address the issue of immunity and accountability. He urged commissioners to consider adjusting fees for County Services, making it clear that if the county continues to avoid accountability for mandatory services, all permit and inspection fees should be waived. Furthermore, he advocated for transparent communication with citizens, notifying them in writing that the county does not guarantee services and will not be held liable for any damages.
The County’s Responsibility
Jake highlighted the responsibility of the County Commissioners to ensure that the community’s safety is prioritized above all else. As the highest level of government representation in Chatham County, the Commissioners must actively address and rectify any systemic flaws in the permitting and inspection processes. Ignoring the concerns raised by residents could lead to more incidents of unsafe constructions, jeopardizing the lives and properties of residents.
Watch Jake Muehlbach’s public input session at the Chatham County Commissioners’ meeting on YouTube
00:21 No apology received, instead a reminder about code violations and permits
- Jake Muehlbach had expected to receive an apology, but none was given.
- Instead, the Jake took the opportunity to mention that the commissioner has not even met the requirements of Chatham County regarding construction approvals.
- There are over 30 code violations and major structural issues in the construction that has been approved.
00:45 Issue regarding accountability and immunity
- An engineer’s approval should have been required.
- Having immunity doesn’t mean being innocent, but rather not being held accountable.
01:04 Builders without assets rely on County for insurance coverage.
- Builders have no registered assets.
- General Session 153 a-435 gives County authority to decide insurance coverage.
01:27 Investigating Chatham County’s insurance coverage.
- Multiple requests have been made to investigate the situation with Chatham County’s insurance.
- The public is being provided with the financial statement related to this matter.
- There are concerns about the insurance coverage for situations involving community immunity.
01:47 Requested an investigation into accounting manager and director
- Policy 102.72-107.52
- Chatham County to conduct internal investigation on matters
- Statute 153-a-102 allows Commissioners to adjust fees for County Services
02:09 Chatham County should waive fees for permits and inspections and inform citizens of the limitations of their services.
- Chatham County is avoiding accountability for their mandatory services.
- Citizens applying for a permit should be notified in writing that the county does not guarantee their services and won’t be held liable.
02:29 Risk of inaction by government
- The Commissioners represent the government in Chatham and must take action.
- Tax payment voters in Chatham County are watching and need help.
03:02 Chatham County residents should express their dissatisfaction with the government’s services
- The video description includes email addresses for County Commissioners
- We should let them know that we don’t want to pay for subpar services