CHINA — Rich McCarthy thinks MUBEC is a good thing for Maine residents, but some China selectmen are skeptical.

MUBEC is the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code, and the town is required by state law to enforce it through inspections beginning July 1.

The code is embodied in a stack of documents almost a foot high that McCarthy brought to Monday’s selectmen’s meeting. McCarthy is the state fire marshal’s representative on the committee that developed the requirements.

To Selectman Joann Austin, the program is an unnecessary additional regulation that increases a homeowner’s cost in order to give someone else a job. Board Chairman Peter Foote also voiced doubts about the requirement that either a town official or hired inspector examine new buildings.

But to McCarthy and Code Enforcement Officer Scott Pierz, an inspector’s approval means a house meets construction and energy standards, will save its owner money on fuel and should increase the building’s value.

“You’re going to have better quality buildings,” McCarthy said, saying better quality materials in new houses will also retard the spread of fires. “Codes are not there just to cost you money; they’re there to save lives.”

McCarthy assured selectmen that a local builder needs only about 20 pages from the four-inch-thick residential building code and a few more pages from the quarter-inch energy code that were part of the stack.

The residential code, he said, prescribes standards for such things as the size of floor joists and rafters.

It is so thick because it is international, with adjustments for U.S. states and for different communities within each state. For example, the standard for the snow load a roof has to bear without collapsing is different for Alaska and Mississippi — and for Fort Kent and Kittery.

McCarthy said reputable contractors will find the code has little effect: They already build to its standards. Other builders who should not be building houses anyway will have to change their ways or go out of business, he said.

Enforcing the code means that each new building, addition or substantial renovation started after July 1 will have to be inspected during construction. The inspector will submit a report to Pierz, who cannot issue an occupancy permit allowing use of the building until he gets the report.

However, Pierz does not have to read the report, McCarthy said. The inspector, not the codes officer, signs it and puts his reputation behind it.

State law says all towns with a population of more than 2,000 that do not have their own building code must begin enforcing the Maine code July 1. There are three options for the required inspections: a town official, like the codes officer, can do them; the homeowner can hire a certified inspector; or several towns can band together to hire an inspector.

The state has been certifying inspectors, and there are 173 certified already, McCarthy said. One goal of the program, he said, is to create jobs for Maine residents.

Depending on the inspector and the situation, the cost to a homeowner of hiring a private inspector is likely to range from $500 to $2,000, he said.

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