The City of La Grande’s building division underwent a major change recently, as a new chief building official took the helm.
NEW BOSS: Lorin Preston was recently named La Grande’s new chief building official. Preston started out in the building division last September as a temporary building inspector, and applied for the top spot when it became vacant this fall. The Observer/BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH
Lorin Preston, who joined the division in September, is stepping up to take the place of Lee Bodine, who resigned this fall.
In an interview this week, Preston said he considers effective communication to be a vital part of his job.“I’m easy to get in touch with,” he said. “I give contractors my cell number, something a lot of building officials don’t do. Contractors’ questions are important and need to be answered as quickly as possible.”
Preston, 44, is an Oregon native, born in Toledo and raised in Waldport. He has an associate’s degree in applied science from Chemeketa Community College.
He worked in California for a number of years before becoming a building official in Cottage Grove in 2007. He was there 10 months before moving to La Grande to take a job as a building inspector.
“Everything slowed down in Cottage Grove. The department was turned over to a third-party contractor. That follows a trend,” he said.
He joined La Grande’s building division in September. The job was supposed to be a temporary one, but by the time Bodine resigned, Preston decided he wanted to stay around. He applied for the top spot.
“I’ve really enjoyed working for the city and I like living in La Grande,” he said. “It’s a place where people say ‘hi’ to you when you meet them on the street.”
To help pick a new building official, the city council formed a selection team made up of city officials and community members.
The team sorted through 10 applications and interviewed three or four finalists, finally recommending Preston. He officially took over Nov. 21.
“We had some good applicants. It was a pretty close race, but I’m confident Lorin is the right man for the job,” said Charlie Mitchell, head of the Community Development Department.
The building division issues building, electrical, plumbing and mechanical permits for commercial, industrial and residential construction.
The division issues permits and does inspections not only in
La Grande but throughout Union County. It’s a fast-paced operation with growing needs. Preston said his staff will increase in the near future to keep up with demand.
Currently the staff consists of two permit technicians, plus two on-call building inspectors who work nearly every day.
Part-time permit technician Terrie Richards is leaving in January to work for the City of Elgin. She will be replaced with a full-time employee. The division also plans to turn one of the on-call inspector positions into a full-time spot.
Preston said one of his main goals is to make the building department more “user friendly.”
“That means bringing it up to date and completing some improvements my predecessors have started,” he said.
He said he hopes to see the permit and inspections process speeded up, and also some better code enforcement. He said people who fail to obtain necessary permits hurt those who do follow the rules.
“I’d like to improve enforcement so that the people who do get their permits aren’t paying for the ones who don’t. If everybody who needs to comes and gets their permit, it helps keep fees down,” he said.
Permits aren’t necessary for some projects, Preston said. In the coming year, he hopes to help builders to a better understanding of the requirements.
“In the spring, we’re planning some classes on the code and on the department,” he said.
The current depressed economy hasn’t done much to slow down the pace of work for the building division. Roughly halfway through the current fiscal year, the division has processed some 400 building permits.
“That’s not counting plumbing, electrical and mechanical permits,” Preston said. “So far, we haven’t seen any slowdown, though we are processing more commercial permits than residential ones.”