Several Norwalk City Schools workers, including director of operations Corey Ream, were with Ken Arthur, Richland County chief inspector and building official, to inspect the new bleachers. Arthur works for the Richland County Building Department, a government agency which handles the inspections for Huron, Richland, Ashland, Wyandot, Seneca and Crawford counties.
“Basically all of north central Ohio,” said director Jared Dickey, who also is the commercial plans examiner.
About two hours before kickoff, Superintendent George Fisk informed the Reflector that “our bleachers are open” and passed the inspection. He praised the work that Arthur and Dickey did for the district.
“They went the extra mile for us,” Fisk said.
Early Thursday afternoon, Dickey met with Fisk and Dustin Brown, director of support services, at his Richland County office to inspect the plans for the bleachers.
Since the Whitney Field situation came under the category of a “walk-through plan review of small-scope projects,” Dickey said it was similar to being in the express lane for the grocery store.
“That means you have to have six items in your bag,” he added jokingly.
Norwalk had a back-up plan in case fans couldn’t use the new bleachers Thursday night.
School officials brought smaller, portable bleachers used for baseball, softball and tennis to Whitney Field. The smaller bleachers were placed on the straighaway portions of the track near the turns. The Willard fans used the visiting bleachers.
Fisk and Josh Schlotterer, Norwalk High School director of student activities, credited the Norwalk city and Catholic school communities for working together. Fisk said fans had the option of sitting in the smaller stands or the new bleachers during the game.
As of Wednesday, the new bleachers still needed to be inspected.
Dickey was asked why there was a problem in scheduling an inspection of the Whitney Field bleachers. He said it’s the time of year when his agency has schools six counties “rushing” to get their projects approved and as a result, those projects and inspections need to be handled accordingly — not unlike taking a number at a customer-service desk.
“It’s a very busy time. Construction is booming,” Dickey added.
Why Richland County?
Richland County has overseen inspections for Huron County since 1987 and the city of Norwalk for the last six years. Richland County also has contracts with the cities of Bellevue and Willard.
When asked why Huron County doesn’t have its own inspector, Dickey said counties have three options: Find certified employees to staff such a department, use another government agency, such as the present situation, or hire a private, third-party agency which would bill by the hour.
If one of those three situations don’t happen, a county would need to work under state regulations.
“It mostly occurs in the west,” Dickey said, referring to counties having inspection work done by another county agency. “There are less than a dozen (similar situations) in the state.”
Incorporated cities and villages have a separate contract than unicorporated areas, he explained.
Currently, Richland County has the following staff members: Three clerks, three inspectors and Dickey, who is the director and commercial plans examiner. One clerk position is part time and one inspector, Arthur, also is the building official. Dickey said the agency plans to hire another inspector and plans examiner.
Dickey said the goal is to assist municipalities in their process, not hinder.
“The state has given us a certain amount of time to respond to people and we are under that time (now), but we want to be better,” he said.