May recognizes clerks, building codes

This month marks the 40th year that communities around the world will celebrate Building Safety Month. With the increased frequency and severity of devastating storms across the country each year, the importance of building safety has become a personal topic whilst building codes continue to protect and save lives.


Building codes incorporate the latest technology and provide the safest, most resilient structures for families and communities. The International Codes, developed by the International Code Council and adopted by the state as part of the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code, are the most widely used and adopted set of building safety codes in the United States. 

Code and building officials, plan reviewers, fire inspectors, architects, builders, engineers, design professionals, contractors and staffers in Aroostook County are among the 64,000 members of the International Code Council that created Building Safety Month. All of us work together to provide the first line of defense against building disasters and to ensure the safety of the buildings where we all live, work and play. 

Building Safety Month was first observed in 1980 and raises awareness about critical building safety issues from structural to fire prevention, plumbing and mechanical systems, and energy efficiency. This year’s campaign theme is “Safer Buildings, Safer Communities, Safer World.”  The City of Caribou, a member of the International Code Council, cares about the health and safety of all citizens.  Everyone is encouraged to ask questions of staff and learn about the essential safety work of the code enforcement department.

Currently, Zoning Administrator Ken Murchison is working to complete a blight survey as part of the Caribou City Council’s initiative to reduce blight in our community. Staff are available to answer questions about building plans, and if you are considering a project this year, many resources are available online at the city website: www.cariboumaine.org. Under the “departments” tab, select “code enforcement.”

In last month’s article, I incorrectly stated the cost of a building permit. A building permit in Caribou is a flat fee of $50.  Feel free to call if you have questions. We are here to help.

You know who else is here to help? The City Clerk’s office. According to the International Institute of Municipal Clerks website, since 1969 the IIMC has sponsored a week to recognize municipal clerks and increase the public’s awareness of the vital services they provide. In 1984 and again in 1994, presidents Ronald Reagan and William Clinton signed proclamations declaring Professional Municipal Clerks Week as the first full week of May, recognizing the essential role municipal clerks play in local government. 

Nationwide, clerks work closely with community leaders to observe all legislative proprieties, keep minutes of meetings, maintain ordinances and resolutions and preserve historical records. In Maine, clerks must receive education and training to carry out important functions such as: elections, vital records (births, deaths, marriages) and general duties such as dog licenses, Inland Fisheries & Wildlife licensing, permits and stickers, and vehicle excise and registration. In Caribou, the City Clerk’s office does all these things, plus collects property taxes and permit fees. Additionally, the City Clerk administers General Assistance and acts as the Freedom of Access Act (FOAA) public access officer. During Professional Municipal Clerks Week, May 3 to May 9, I encourage you to reflect of the great work done by your municipal clerks. 

With an executive order dated April 10, Governor Janet Mills has moved the Primary Election in Maine to July 14, 2020. Caribou City Clerk Jayne R. Farrin is encouraging voters to consider signing up for an absentee ballot. You may request a ballot from the maine.gov website, download an application to submit to the Caribou City Clerk, or visit the office (when it reopens), or you can call and request one by mail. Absentee ballots become available 30 days prior to the election and are mailed daily as requests come in. There are resources available online at the City of Caribou website under the “departments” tab. Select the “city clerk” page. For information, call the clerk’s office at: 207-493-3324 option 2.

Are you wondering if you missed the deadline to file for a Homestead Exemption?  If you qualified for the exemption on April 1, you can still apply. In a March 31 executive order, Gov. Mills extended the deadline to file for many exemptions. Contact your municipality for a form (they are same all over the state of Maine) and complete, sign and submit soon because we are trying to process all paperwork for the annual tax commitment. If the office has sent paperwork to you requesting more information on business equipment, exemptions, data verification or to follow up on permits, please complete and return the forms as soon as possible.

Social distancing has made me really appreciate the citizens of Caribou. I’ve missed having taxpayers stop by with questions and I look forward to welcoming you back into the office soon. Until then please give me a call at 207-493-5961 if you have questions about tax assessment or building and other permits. I am grateful every day to be in your service.

Penny Thompson is Caribou’s tax assessor and building official. She can be reached at 493-5961 or pthompson@cariboumaine.org.

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