By Mark Waite
TONOPAH — People having to wait for inspections before they move into their mobile homes may be a thing of the past.
An agreement approved by Nye County Commissioners Jan. 7 with the Nevada Manufactured Housing Division allows the county to inspect the installation of all manufactured, mobile homes and commercial coaches.
The need is more critical in the remote areas of northern Nye County. Brent Steed, senior building inspector for Charles Abbott and Associates, the firm that handles county building inspections in Pahrump, said his company hired a part-time inspector who is working as needed in Tonopah two days per week.
While the need is growing urgent in the Tonopah area, where projects like the Crescent Dunes solar plant are getting under way, the action also means Charles Abbott will be doing both county and state inspections in southern Nye County.
“The state has lost a lot of folks so they can’t respond in a timely manner to a lot of these people,” Steed said. “You’re trying to get in your house, you can’t wait a month.”
Power companies won’t hook up electricity until after a manufactured home is inspected, he said.
“They’re waiting more than 30 days now, which is not acceptable if they want a place to live. It’s pretty sad. We’ve been working on this for over a year to try to get it resolved,” Steed said.
His company could be contracted to do inspection work in other counties, he said, as small counties like Esmeralda County expressed an interest.
“Most of it has been Tonopah. But when other places found out that we were doing it, they started inquiring if we would help them also,” Steed said.
People paying for an inspection won’t have to pay the travel costs for an inspector from Las Vegas to come up to Tonopah, which amounts to about $500, he said. Inspectors from Carson City and Elko also sometimes make the trip to outlying areas of Central Nevada.
“So instead of costing them $700 to $800 it’s going to cost them $250. We already got a part-time guy up there so it will just open the office one day a week and do inspections on that day and then he’s got other duties,” Steed said.
Back in August 2011, county commissioners approved a letter to Jim Deprosse, director of the State of Nevada Manufactured Housing Division, asking for responsibility to enforce manufactured housing statutes and regulations. Inspectors from Charles Abbott and Associates underwent training on doing the inspections. Former County Manager Rick Osborne recommended sending the letter at the time Charles Abbott was given a five-year extension on their building inspection contract with Nye County.
County Manager Pam Webster told commissioners this month the state is requesting a 5 percent fee, to cover any follow-up complaints. The plan is for a hub in Tonopah and a hub in Pahrump, she said, so travel costs wouldn’t be assessed.
“That’s a huge plus, given the fact that the state expense for travel is significant,” Webster said. “It would enable them to be inspected on a regular basis not wait until there’s enough to be accumulated.”
Commissioner Butch Borasky said he’s been involved in setting manufactured homes for 16 years and it’s always been a huge inconvenience, especially in northern Nye County, to get an inspection.
“In the old days it took quite a while to get one in Pahrump as well. This is definitely an improvement in the policy and it will help homeowners get in their home more quickly,” Borasky said.
Michael Lach, a developer who reopened a recreational vehicle park on the Esmeralda County side of the line at the junction of Radar Road and Highway 95 west of Tonopah for a man camp now housing 80 people, said the agreement arose from his situation.
“I think the state is trying to do something different in the Tonopah area anyway,” he said. “We discussed the need to put someone in the center of the state. It’s too costly and too time-consuming.”
Gerald Schulte, owner of GDS Enterprises, a large mobile home setup company, thinks the county should have put the contract out to bid.
“There’s a lot of individuals that aren’t employed or have the experience to go out and do inspections on a contracted basis and it was that way for a lot of years. We had probably since 1976 four different contractors that did the mobile home inspections for the division,” Schulte said.
State law allows cities and counties to apply for the opportunity to do inspections in their jurisdiction, but Schulte said that doesn’t apply to contractors. He added the agreement could open the way for all home builders in the county, including those with stick-built homes, to be subject to inspection by Charles Abbott and Associates. Ironically, home builders in northern Nye County are subject to inspections for manufactured homes but not stick-built homes like people in the Pahrump Regional Planning District.
Schulte feels the state inspection is a joke anyway meant to generate revenue, since manufactured homes are built to federal standards. The county inspections by Charles Abbott involve just checking the address and there are proper steps to get into the home, he said.
Schulte said there isn’t a problem with getting state inspectors on a timely basis.
“They’re reasonable. I would gauge that against our planning department which takes forever for them to get anything done,” he said. “Nothing moves in a big hurry. I don’t mind waiting an extra day for the state. Nobody puts a sense of urgency on it anyways.”
The move isn’t expected to be a major one in Pahrump at this time. Charles Abbott only issued 18 building permits for manufactured housing in 2012 in the Pahrump Regional Planning District, due to the downturn in the economy. Schulte said owners can’t get financing for manufactured homes, but he thinks there could be more placement of the homes in six or seven years as the value of the housing market comes back.
In 2001 Charles Abbott and Associates was given permission to conduct septic tank inspections in Pahrump, after former Commissioner Red Copass complained about lengthy delays in getting state inspections.
In 2007, Charles Abbott was given authority to do fire inspections, following the resignation of State Deputy Fire Marshal Tony Capucci.
In 2010, Nye County approved a contract with Charles Abbott for up to $100,000 for engineering services. They were also construction manager for the new county administration building on the Calvada Eye in Pahrump.
During the original proposal in 2011 to take over from the state, Charles Abbott had suggested $345.70 in travel and mileage fees to go to Tonopah. That will be eliminated in the current proposal, with a building inspector stationed in Tonopah who is also an Esmeralda County deputy.