Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Over the past couple weeks I have been back and forth meeting and inquiring about getting power to the building, building plans, electrical permits, historical guidelines, etc... The process has felt like a Labyrinth, a puzzling sacred path that is supposed to lead me to some center, enlightenment even. Well, I'm not sure I would use the word enlightened to describe what I'm feeling now, but I have certainly been surprised along the way. Here are a few things that I have learned:

  1. The women and men who work at DPNR (the Department of Planning and Natural Resources) are incredibly helpful and pleasant. My questions were answered respectfully and thoroughly. The inspector that came out to do the site visit was knowledgeable and gracious. I was told how much things would cost ($20 for an electrical permit), how long it would take (2-4 days) and exactly what I needed to bring (an electrical plan and permit form filled out and signed by licensed electrician). Courteous efficient service can really be achieved in government. Wow.
  2. Building plans are expensive! I am surprised at how expensive building plans are, especially considering one of the buildings is less than 400 square feet. Charging $100-$200 per square foot is a lot, especially considering that I know how to draw and measure and use the computer, so minus the fact that I don’t know the building codes, what I received looks pretty much like something I could do myself.
  3. Becoming a licensed electrician is hard. I couldn’t understand why so many electricians or plumbers I have interacted with over the years always got uneasy when I mentioned anything with permits. You would have thought that DPNR had a minotaur hiding inside! Well I have since realized that many of these people are not licensed. When it came time to get permits, people who I have used for years had to admit that they did not have a license and could not help me. Upon finding a licensed electrician he said to me that when he took the test he passed it in one shot, but that the woman who administered it told him that in the 25 years she had worked at Licensing & Consumer Affairs, he was only the second person to do that. Wow.
  4. DPNR and SHPO are actually there to help you. The State Historic Preservation Committee has been nicknamed by some as the Hysterical Society, meaning that they impose ridiculous rules and guidelines and seem to delight in telling people what to do with their property. My interaction with them has been quite the opposite. It’s a small four member committee of individuals who care about our community and see our architecture as a treasure and want to help protect Y/OUR investment and Y/OUR heritage.
And as for DPNR, they want to make sure that what happened for example in Haiti, doesn’t happen to us, that our buildings don’t collapse, that who is working on our homes where we or somebody’s children will sleep, knows what they are doing.

So ultimately I learned that like the walls forming a labyrinth and guiding your path, that rules and regulations are not such a bad thing. They help to steer us along our way.