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Fee increase delayed

October 22, 1997

By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Staff Writer

The Washington County Commissioners delayed a vote Tuesday on proposed increases in fees for permits and inspections that would add about $200 to the cost of the average new home.

Under new options presented to the commissioners Tuesday, increases of up to 73 percent in permit fees for a new home would be phased in over three years beginning July 1, 1998.

The commissioners want to give the Electrical Board of Examiners a chance to make a recommendation on the proposed rate increases.

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New mechanical fees would bring in $87,000 and higher plumbing fees would bring in an additional $40,000 in the first year. Higher building permit fees would go into effect July 1, 1999, increasing revenue by $45,000. Higher electrical fees would go into effect July 1, 2000, raising an additional $68,000.

Other options would result in slightly smaller increases.

The original proposal called for all of the increases to be implemented at one time.

County Permits and Inspections Director Paul Prodonovich recommended the new fees as a means of helping his department nearly pay for itself. Under the current fee structure, the department brings in $672,618 per year but has costs of $939,905, for a deficit of $267,618. Under the original proposed hike, that deficit would drop to $21,287 in the first year.

County Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers said he opposes the plan except for the new mechanical fees. Bowers said county taxpayers should subsidize the permits office to promote rehabilitation of older housing and other development. He said homeowners shouldn't have to pay the full cost of permits and inspections as well.

Bowers predicted that lower permit fees would promote enough growth for the county to make up the money in increased property tax. That theory had Commissioner James R. Wade and Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook chuckling that Bowers had converted to supply-side economics.

Wade questioned whether people paying property taxes should subsidize the permits office, and said he didn't buy the argument that lower permit fees in West Virginia were prompting people to leave the county.

Commissioner John S. Shank said the department shouldn't necessarily be self-sufficient because it spends time on projects other than those that generate revenue.

If the new fees are implemented, they would be among the highest in the area, according to county figures.

Under the plan, fees for a new two-story, 3,300-square-foot home would increase by 46 percent, from $426.66 to $625.32. Permit fees for the same house would cost $456.20 in Berkeley County, W.Va., $443.32 in Frederick County, Md., $654 in Hagerstown and $678.60 in Howard County, Md.

Fees for a typical one-story, 2,300-square-foot home would rise 73 percent, from $329.16 to $569.76. That compares to $278.38 in Berkeley County, $449.64 in Frederick County, $550.90 in Howard County and $732.50 in Hagerstown.

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