Building code to go to voters

TRENTON — Voters at Town Meeting next spring will decide whether the town will adopt part or all of the state Uniform Building and Energy Code.

According to Code Enforcement Officer Angela Chamberlain, the town can adopt the building code without the energy code, the energy code without the building code, or it can adopt both.

As of now, Trenton has not formally adopted any of these options and does not have a building code.

“The codes are reviewed and amended by the state,” Chamberlain told the Board of Selectmen last week. “You could certainly build a structure that meets higher standards, but these are just the minimum safeguards.”

Chamberlain recommended that the town adopt the building code without the energy code. “The standards for the energy code are so much greater than they were before and they bring a lot of added cost that people will struggle with.”

The energy code would require, for example, all new buildings and additions to have an insulated foundation.

“What about the savings from making an insulated foundation?” Selectman Rachel Nobel asked. “Do you know if over time it ends up being an added expense? Or is it just an initial added expense?”

“I can tell people all day that eventually they’ll recoup their money, but people are on a budget when they’re building,” Chamberlain said. “And that’s what they’re looking at when they build, not what the savings will be down the road.”

After some discussion, the board voted unanimously to bring all three options to voters at the next town meeting in May.

Selectmen also unanimously approved changes to the general assistance program.

In Hancock County this year, the maximum general assistance for a single person is $818 a month and increases incrementally for each additional dependent in the household. Housing assistance maximums are determined by the number of bedrooms.

According to Town Clerk Carol Walsh, the state determines maximums for assistance. If Trenton had voted not to approve the ordinance, people would still be eligible to receive compensation, but the town would not receive 50 percent reimbursement from the state.

“So we really have no choice,” said Town Clerk Carol Walsh. “You either vote for it or you don’t.”

Chamberlain made two other recommendations that the board adopted.

The first was for the town to adopt an increase in building permit fees. The fees are currently 10 cents and 15 cents per square foot, depending on whether the buildings are finished or unfinished, and will increase to 15 cents and 20 cents, respectively. Permits for other construction, such as driveways and fill, currently have a $25 flat fee. The fee will increase to $30.

The second recommendation was for the town to increase the agent fee associated with car registration, following a recent change in state law. Residents will now pay an additional dollar when they register their vehicles at the Trenton Town Office.

Blake Cass

Blake Cass

Blake Cass

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