Don Ball’s life is about to get 13 times more complicated.
Under a Florida law that took effect in April, pool builders constructing new public facilities now must work with the local building department, rather than the county’s health department, for their plans, permits and inspections.
That means in Pinellas County, where Ball’s firm pulls 20 to 30 permits annually for commercial pools, he will go from dealing with one government entity (Pinella’s health department) to many more.
“Every individual city is allowed to maintain its own building department,” said Ball, president of The Pool Works in Tarpon Springs. “There are 13 different building departments within this one county. We’re going from one to 13.”
The shift is the result of Florida HB 1263, a wide-ranging piece of legislation intended to streamline Florida’s health department. Previously, that department oversaw construction and operation of the state’s 37,000 public pools. But under the new law, plan approvals will be up to the local building department. The health department will issue operating permits for new and existing commercial pools.
“With regard to the pool changes, I think there was some feeling that there was overlap between local building departments and health departments,” explained Jennifer Hatfield, director of government and public affairs for the Florida Swimming Pool Association . “It seemed duplicative.”
The new process will mean a change in how commercial pool builders and local governments do business. “I think that in the short term, there will likely be a learning curve, and that learning curve will vary based on the building department,” Hatfield predicted.
Industry sources say Florida’s health department appears to be doing everything it can to assist the process, offering Webinars and briefings to pool builders and others.
“It appears that the department of health is really trying to make it an easy transition,” said Don Cesarone, who builds approximately 30 pools a year as the general manager and vice president of commercial pools at Van Kirk & Sons Pools and Spas in Deerfield Beach, Fla.
However, Cesarone is a little worried that local building departments may not have enough people on staff to handle the new process. “It seems like building departments are pretty far extended as far as workload already,” he said.