Published: Wednesday, January 2, 2008
Better Trumbull County rating to lower cost of home insurance
A year ago, the department added pre-construction review of residential
By ED RUNYAN
WARREN Tom Gladd, Trumbull County's chief building official, says improvement in an insurance industry measurement of the department's effectiveness could result in improved homeowner's insurance rates for areas served by the county department.
Gladd says it is impossible to say the actual savings amount, but the new residential rating his office received this month from the Insurance Services Office in New Jersey represents lower costs for residents and an indication that his department is improving.
The ISO evaluated the department in October and dropped the rating from a 7 to a 5. It also dropped from a 9 to a 7 in the 2003 evaluation. Ratings range from a 1 being the best to a 10 being the worst.
Trumbull County's building inspection department oversees construction in the areas outside Warren, Niles, Girard and McDonald, which have their own inspection departments and their own ratings.
Insurance rates are affected by the ISO rating in effect at the time the home or commercial building is built, the ISO Web site says. The Trumbull County department's commercial rating has not changed much in recent years and remains a 4, Gladd said. ISO ratings for commercial buildings are more often affected by the fire department than policies in the inspection department, Gladd said.
Gladd, who took over the department when former chief building official David Zofko left for a job in Columbus in May, admits the Trumbull County department had more room for improvement than many other nearby departments.
The two building inspection departments in Mahoning County, run by the county and city of Youngstown, both have residential and commercial ratings of 4. The city of Warren also rated a 4. Ratings for the other departments were not available.
The ISO looks at a variety of features of a building inspection department to determine its effectiveness. Knowing the effectiveness of a building department is a factor the insurance industry uses to determine how well buildings in an area will survive disasters such as tornadoes, Gladd said.
Gladd said one of the biggest improvements the department made was to begin to review residential construction plans before the builder started the job. That procedure began a year ago. Another was adopting the new statewide building codes in 2006.
His department's inspectors have been in their jobs long enough to be considered experienced, he said, which is another positive. County commissioners have also made it possible for inspectors to get the training they need, he said.
His department has also made improvements in the area of disaster recovery by having all of the office's essential paperwork and policies available at a remote location in case the department's offices in the Wean Building on North Park Avenue is destroyed.
The department's biggest deficiency is that its records are not computerized, Gladd said.
Gladd says he has begun to address other areas from the evaluation.
For example, Gladd has met with building inspection departments in Geauga, Portage and Mahoning counties to try to find a partner for a mutual aid agreement. In the event of a disaster, a two-county team of inspectors could work more effectively to "score" buildings in an affected area to more quickly determine the severity of the damage, he said.
Jeff Ursoseva, Mahoning County's chief building official, said his department's ISO rating is from 2004, so his department is due for a new rating soon.
Brenda Williams, chief building official for Youngstown, said her department's rating dropped from a 5 to a 4 in 2004 and she's hoping for a 3 in about 2009. She said the large amount of residential and commercial building activity has warranted her going from part-time to full-time in August.