Rural Iowa citizens push for public inspection on construction, remodeling projects

A woman in Mills County is pushing for public inspections to return for construction and remodeling projects after getting into a dispute with a contractor.
Published: Nov. 14, 2023 at 10:40 PM CST
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HASTINGS, Iowa (WOWT) - A contractor who Eva Hall says she paid $20,000 claims that the 71-year-old homeowner got her money’s worth.

But Eva disagreed after another contractor told her she needed to pay thousands of dollars more to complete and correct the project. So who’s right?

“He should be accountable and have an inspector say ‘You did not do that right,’” Eva said.

But the town of Hastings, which only houses a population of 152 people, doesn’t have a building inspector, nor does Mills County.

“There have been complaints because now they’re finding out, ‘How come the mortgage [companies] aren’t happy?’ Because nobody checked and balanced a lot of this stuff,” said Carol Vinton, a member of the Mills County Board of Supervisors.

In Mills County, contractors go to zoning administrator Holly Jackson for permits and then any work done is on the honor system.

“The contractor is stating that the work was done according to code, but there is no inspection process to ensure that is correct,” Jackson said.

But it hasn’t always been that way.

The program running inspection processes to see if new construction is up to code was dropped in Mills County two years ago. Now, there are plans to bring it back.

Jackson wants to hire a construction expert and she plans to apply for a grant to help with salary and software costs.

“With the changes they’ve been discussing, we’d have someone review the plans and inspect the job sites based on the plans brought in,” Jackson said.

Mark Trively, a project manager whose company hires a private inspector on its jobs, says publicly-funded code review in Mills County would be fair for all.

“I think it’s needed,” Trively said. “It’s a viable process in the new construction and remodeling industry.”

The hills in Mills County are buzzing with builders, so there’s a push to rebuild an inspection program.

“You have to have somebody oversee this,” Vinton said. “So we have now stepped it up and I want it to start moving.”

And not just for new construction.

Eva’s daughter, Margo Palm, says long-time homeowners like her mom deserve to be assured they are getting a remodeling job that will pass the test of time and inspection.

“Take care of people like her and inspect those things that are taken for granted,” Palm said.

Next week, Mills County supervisors may decide whether or not to send a construction review program to the planning commission.

Any recommendations there would come back to the county board for a final vote. There will be public hearings along the way to give contractors and customers a chance to voice their opinions.