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Impact fees plan is 12 years in the making

October 20, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - After talks began more than 12 years ago about passing impact fees in Jefferson County, it appears county officials are closing in on a plan for the fees.

There has been plenty to consider.

Among the issues are what county officials wanted to fund with the fees and how they could be used to pay for projects in the county.

Impact fees are collected from developers to help pay for new services needed because of population growth.

The Jefferson County Commission, the governing body that is pondering implementing the fees, considered using the fees to help pay for a wide range of services, such as expanded fire and police departments, park facilities and schools.

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The commissioners later decided to fund only new school construction with the fees.

Area lawmakers say the commissioners have the authority to fund only one area with the fees.

"The greatest need would be in education," said Del. Dale Manuel, D-Jefferson.

The Bethesda, Md.-based firm of Tischler and Associates, which was hired by the county to develop an impact fee system for the county, is recommending that the county charge an impact fee of about $8,300 for every single-family home built in the county.

Last Thursday, the commissioners agreed to a tentative impact fee of $7,121 for every single-family home.

Other pending issues include how the money could be used in the school system, said Jefferson County Board of Education member Doris Cline.

Some expressed concern that impact fees collected in one school attendance zone could not be used to pay for projects at a school in a different attendance zone, Cline said.

School officials consulted with Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Michael D. Thompson, who said those concerns could be alleviated by referring to the school system as one district, Cline said.

Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson, who has worked closely on the state laws that allow impact fees, said Thompson's approach seems workable.

In theory, funds from impact fees could be used to build a second high school, but there are other issues that first have to be worked out, said Board of Education member Delores Milstead and Jefferson County Commissioner Greg Corliss.

One is any seating "deficits" that currently exist in the school system, Milstead said. Seating deficits reflect the amount of overcrowding that currently exists in the school system, Milstead said.

The district is considered to have about an 800-seat deficit, Milstead said.

Because impact fees cannot be used for seating deficits, the board of education plans to make up for the needed funds through a proposed $19 million bond issue that will be presented to county voters next May, Milstead and Corliss said.

Construction of a new high school, which is to be built on 57 acres at the 3,800-home Huntfield development, will cost about $36 million, according to Milstead. When the second high school is being built, Jefferson High School will be renovated, which will cost about $12 million, Milstead said.

So far, $6 million has been obtained for the project through the state Economic Development Grant Committee.

School officials are hoping to obtain the rest of the money for the high school project through the bond issue and a $19 million funding request from the state School Building Authority, school officials said.

Approximately $4 million is made up of two areas that already have been dealt with, school officials said.

One area is the land for the second high school. A 57-acre parcel has been donated to the school system for the second high school by the developers of the Huntfield development.

The land is valued at $3 million, officials said.

The remaining $1 million reflects architectural drawings that already have been drawn up for the renovation of Jefferson High School, officials said.

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