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New Law Rejected: Why One County Says Making You Safer Could Be Taking Your Freedom

This story is by John Mott Coffey, with News Mississippi affiliate WQNZ in Natchez.

NATCHEZ, Miss.–Adams County residents living outside Natchez will likely remain free from construction regulations, said county board President Darryl Grennell.

The Board of Supervisors is considering whether to adopt rules for how homes are built out in the county, but Grennell said he expects the board will opt out of imposing the standards approved this year by the state Legislature for cities and counties to use if they want.

The new state law is aimed at making structures safer, but it’s drawn much opposition.

“The majority of the residents, I believe, don’t want it,” Grennell said. “A lot of them live outside the city … to get away from codes. They don’t want to be regulated.”

That was the sentiment voiced Monday at a hearing the board held to hear public opinion about the construction requirements.

“It’s about somebody trying to take money out of our pockets, and it’s taking away our freedom,” said William Saxton, who was among six people at the hearing attacking the regulations as costly and burdensome.

Architect Amelia Salmon was the only person at the hearing supporting the rules on how buildings are constructed and outfitted for electricity and plumbing to ensure they’re sturdy and not dangerous.

“It is incumbent on us to have buildings for the public that are safe,” she said.

Natchez has construction regulations that buildings within the city must adhere to for structural integrity, safety and appearance.

Salmon said the county needs to be prepared for the growth of more buildings outside the city.

“We would want these buildings to be as safe as those (in the city),” she said.

The five-member Board of Supervisors will likely make a final decision in a couple of weeks on whether to adopt a building code, Grennell said.

“I’ve received more calls about this than the hospital,” said county Supervisor David Carter, referring to the board’s plans to sell the county-owned Natchez Regional Medical Center.

If construction regulations were adopted for Adams County, inspectors would have to be hired to enforce them and building fees would have to be set to pay for this. “There would probably be some costs involved and a lot of planning,” said county board attorney Scott Slover.

The Mississippi Legislature in March enacted the legislation to encourage local governments statewide to adopt nationally recognized standards for how buildings are constructed. The new law was pushed by state Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, who lauded it as a way to save lives and property and to lower homeowners’ insurance costs because houses would be better fortified against storm damage.

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