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OCTOBER 6, 1997

Local News

McKee With a bulldog tacked to his wall, Dean McKee, Woodinville's permit center director, watches over building codes and qualified personnel who recently scored the city a building insurance rating among the highest in the state.

Andrew Walgamott/staff photo

Building center watchdogs' garner city top insurance rating

  by Andrew Walgamott
   WOODINVILLE--A recently released insurance survey rated the city's building permit department among the highest in the state for effectiveness of administrative codes, plan review and inspection services in mitigating for natural disasters such as windstorms, earthquakes and excessive snow loads.
   Woodinville's score, a 2 on a scale of 1-10 on the Building Code Effectiveness Grading Schedule, could lead to lower insurance premiums for new single family housing, commercial and industrial building constructed over the next five years. All building's permitted in that time frame will forever have a rating of 2.
   The rating was compiled by the Washington Surveying and Ratings Bureau. A score of 10 represented less than the minimum recognized protection. "As far as the rating schedule, there's high competency and commitment to mitigation efforts," Andrew Anschell, field operations manager for the survey bureau said in regards to city code and permit center staff.
   Woodinville, Kirkland, Bellevue and Bellingham were the only four cities in the state that received 2s. Bothell and King County garnered 4s, which Anschell termed "average. Permit Center Director Dean McKee said he was "happy and surprised" with the city's ratings, adding that he had expected Woodinville to be ranked a 5.
   McKee said being a new city with newer structures constructed to building codes, as well as having a staff that wrote good code and implemented it led to the high rating. He added that 200-300 hours of disaster preparedness training provided by the Woodinville Fire and Life Safety District also factored into the score.
   McKee spread credit for the rating around to other city departments as well. Planning, McKee said, was responsible for the sensitive areas ordinance as well as zoning controls on steep slopes, and Public Services has adopted FEMA standards. "For me, this is confirmation that we can have an effective building department and still have a user friendly department," McKee said. Near McKee's desk is a photo of a bulldog. He said not all people leave the permitting desk happy.
   Anschell said the ratings schedule was developed in early 1997 by the insurance industry and building code officials who were seeking ways to limit losses after catastrophic damage caused from Hurricanes Andrew and Hugo, and the Northridge, California earthquake. Anschell's bureau, similar to those across the country, evaluates a building department's commitment to limiting natural hazards by looking at personnel qualifications and department resources. "What everyone's hoping is [the rating system is] an incentive to improving mitigation and reducing losses which will lead to reduced premiums," Anschell said.