Cape Habitat volunteers won't need licenses

Friday, December 28, 2007

Cape Area Habitat for Humanity is planning to finish building five homes in the first half of 2008. The group's officials are pleased that volunteers won't need licenses to do the work.

Habitat officials were worried that a revamped ordinance for licensing skilled trade workers in the city of Cape Girardeau would require volunteers to be licensed.

Board of examiners member Stan Wicks said Thursday it was a misunderstanding brought about by legalese.

"They're still free to do what they want to do," said Wicks, a licensed master electrician.

Habitat vice president Robin Cole protested the language change at the city's board of examiners meeting Dec. 3 and said Thursday the clarification was a relief. He said building homes using donated labor is "like trying to herd cats" and that adding a $15 fee and registration with the city would have overburdened volunteers and the program.

Cape Habitat's outgoing president, Paul Lloyd, said he expects fewer problems with future projects.

Earlier this year, Habitat was criticized by Mayor Jay Knudtson at a city council meeting attended by more than a dozen angry neighbors of home built on Country Club Lane. The neighbors said they were upset with noise and plans to subdivide a single parcel of land multiple times. Knudtson told Habitat officials to make more of a diplomatic effort with neighbors. The first Habitat home built on Country Club Lane and a West End Boulevard Habitat home finished in August did not have certificates of occupancy because they hadn't passed final city inspections. Certificates of occupancy are proof of a home's safety.

Lines for the West End Boulevard house's air-conditioning unit were improperly sealed and a smoke detector was defective. A final inspection on the Country Club Lane home was not scheduled until after the keys were turned over to the new owner in October. The locks were changed the following day, but the family still could not move in until the property was subdivided to accommodate a second home. The city council agreed to subdivide the property Nov. 19.

Lloyd said all of the problems have been resolved. Last week, the Country Club Lane home was turned over to its new owner; on Sunday, Veronica Cooper was able to move into her new Habitat home on Cousin Street.

"If we had to do it over again, we wouldn't start construction before we got the subdivision done," Lloyd said.

According to Cole, the homes now have certificates of occupancy. He said such glitches will be avoided in the future because home inspections and occupancy certificates have been added to the final checklist used for each building project, he said.

City inspector Tim Morgan was unavailable for comment.

Lloyd said new officers were elected to Habitat's executive committee. He will be replaced by Tom Meyer; Cole is vice president; Bertha King is secretary; Nancy Grand will be the group's treasurer; and Dean White has agreed to be the Habitat's legal counsel. Lowell Peterson is Cape Area Habitat's executive director, Lloyd said.

Habitat for Humanity helps low-income people become homeowners. Applicants must donate 250 to 300 hours of time in helping build homes, including their own, and agree to a 22-year mortgage plan.

pmcnichol@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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