Building fee hike 'wrong'

November 05, 1997


Staff Writer

The cost of an average new home in Washington County will increase by about $200 in the next three years as a result of the Washington County Commissioners Tuesday vote to raise permit fees.

The commissioners voted to approve $200,000 a year in higher fees despite opposition from the county's electrical board.

"The homeowners are getting slapped," said Jim Elliott, owner of Tri-State Energy Corp. in Hagerstown and a member of the electrical board. "You're beating them to death. This stuff ain't right. It's wrong."

Elliott said the county's existing electrical fees are double Frederick County's, and said Frederick County doesn't charge mechanical fees.

The fee increases will be phased in beginning Jan. 1, 1998, when the county will begin charging fees for mechanical inspections.


An increase in plumbing fees will take effect July 1, 1998, followed by building and electrical permit hikes in 1999 and 2000.

The total amount of the increase varies from house to house. Three examples given by the county had increases ranging from $135 to $204 for single-family homes.

Commissioner R. Lee Downey said the higher fees were justified because the fees hadn't been raised since 1988.

Commissioner James R. Wade said the fee increases were in keeping with the commissioners' goal of having county departments pay for themselves. Wade said he didn't buy the argument that more people would choose to live in West Virginia or Pennsylvania because of the extra costs.

Some county home builders said they could live with the increases.

"Nobody's thrilled with increases, but I think we all have to recognize that the fee increases are necessary," said Taylor Oliver, owner of Oliver Homes.

"We really don't have a problem with that. The fees haven't been raised since 1988 and we understand that costs go up," said Dennis Swope, vice president of Home Construction Corp. of Hagerstown.

Elliott said large commercial projects were getting off easy.

The fees for the Staples warehouse would have increased by less than 1 percent under the new fees, in part because much of the increases come from higher application fees.

Permits and Inspections Director Paul Prodonovich said the purpose of the higher application fees is to discourage multiple applications on the same project.

Despite the increased fees, the department won't break even, Prodonovich said.

The department's projected revenues under the new plan will be $788,608 next year compared to $939,905 in projected expenses. In 2000, the department will spend about $1 million and collect about $876,000.

Prodonovich originally had proposed higher fees than those approved by the commissioners and had suggested they all take effect immediately.

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