School Permit Fee Negotiation Nears Conclusion

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By Dave Freneaux

How exactly does $437,469 become less than $166,404? Begin with a $437,469, which was not a permit fee proposed or charged by the Central permit office, but an internal estimate generated by the Central Community School System not intended to be an official interpretation of Central’s permit fee structure. Remove all of the items which, once the permits are actually applied for, are not subject to building permits, reducing the number by $160,129, and you are left with $277,340. Then reduce that number by the 40% discount already agreed to in principal by all parties 2 1/2 months ago in March, subtracting $110,936, leaving potential permit fees of $166,404. Then, as indicated by Louis DeJohn at the May 25th City Council meeting, have all parties continue negotiating in good faith to arrive at permit fees which are fair to all parties and ensure that the renovations and construction of Central’s schools are safe and meet code, and you end up at final proposed permit fee for all school renovations, which is yet to be determined, but will be, in Mr. DeJohn’s words at this Tuesday’s Council Meeting, "lower than any in the area."

One of the most important things to understand in this whole process is that it has been an ongoing negotiation which began two and a half months ago when the impact of Central’s permit fee rates on multi-million dollar projects came to light for the first time. Councilman Louis DeJohn, who has been involved with Central’s permit fee structure from the beginning, spoke with and explained the details of the school permit fee and the resulting impact on the entire commercial fee structure on the books in Central. As early as March the City could have agreed to a one-time reduction in the permit fee for the school construction, but it was agreed that a "sliding scale" fee structure should be implemented which accounts for large projects, rather than just fixing one case and then having to revisit the issue again each time a large opportunity for economic growth came to Central.

Mr. DeJohn expressed regret that when the commercial fees were originally considered by council and citizens in workshops and meetings, and ultimately approved in a Council meeting open to the public, no one anticipated the disproportionately high fees which would be imposed on large projects. But, there is a first time for everything in Central, and this first large project has helped to solve the fee structure for all future construction. He admitted that the fees were "tested" up through a million dollar project, but that projects such as the new schools were not even in the realm of consideration at the time.

With "sliding scale" commercial fees as a goal, the City of Central, CH2M HILL and Safebuilt are currently negotiating a commercial fee structure to be introduced at the June 23rd City Council meeting and voted on in July. Mr. DeJohn asked the Council and the citizens of Central to "give this process time to finish."


  1. Scott Shelton

    June 9, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    I am confused as to how new schools were not even in the realm of possibilities at that time. I thought that we became a city to have our own school system. You would think that schools would have been considered in nearly every decision made. I may be wrong but I think I recall a city official saying that school capacity wasn’t taken into account when the master plan was drawn up either. Wake up, current leaders of central. If the school system truly is why we became a city, maybe you should start considering them first.

  2. Scott Shelton

    June 9, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Oh that’s right. We didn’t think we would have to build new schools because we foolishly thought that the city we just broke away from would still build them for us.

  3. T.J.

    June 9, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    That is NICE Scott !People like you are the problem with Central today .No solution just point fingers and call names.If we dont figure out how to Compromise and fix things we will be worse off than what we left behind.I dont know what you took from the artical I understood that our officials found a glitch in the system and are working to fix it so we dont have this happen again . I am sorry you are so bitter but the election is over .

  4. Scott Shelton

    June 9, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    I am far from bitter about the election. I didn’t say anything about the election TJ. I’m actually quite happy with the outcome. That outcome being that people are opening their eyes and not just following blindly. All I said is that I don’t see how the people in charge keep forgetting to take the schools into consideration. I am far from being the problem with central.

  5. Kyle

    June 9, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Scott: The Central School Board did take EBR Schools to court to get money that the taxpayers on Central had been paying for years to build a new middle school. EBR promised when the tax plan was passed years ago that there would be a new Central Middle School built with those tax dollars. The people of Central voted for that tax because they were told that a new middle school would be built by EBR…then EBR changed their mind and decided not to build a new school. So, Central School Board took them to court, and though they didn’t get all the money they wanted, they did get a substantial amount of $$ to the Central School System. Bottom line..EBR promised to build a new school to get our tax dollars on a vote, then after it was approved, they decided not to build a new school for Central. Just another reason why Central is better off not being a part of EBR School System anymore!

  6. Scott Shelton

    June 9, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    Now now TJ. The only one here pointing fingers is you, By saying that i’m the problem with central. Maybe you missed it, but I did try to offer a solution. that is to Think about the very reason that we became a city when major decisions that will affect the schools are being made. I understand that they are working to fix the problem, and I applaud them for that. I was simPly pointing out that this is not the first issue where someone had a duh we forgot about the schools moment. By the way I didn’t mention the election, and am actually quite happy with the outcome. That outcome being that people are opening their eyes and not just following blindly.

  7. T.J.

    June 9, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    No Scott you didnt say you are bitter but your comments do !As far as never taking the schools into consideration sometimes you cant forsee everything that can come up in the future and that is why most Goverment Documents are living Documents Ie.. the constitution so when something is left out or life changes we can adapt to it .I would like to Inform you I didnt vote to Make Central a City Just for the schools I voted To Controll my tax dollars and have a more of a voice . And Scott you may not be The Problem with Central but you are not trying to be the solution

  8. Scott Shelton

    June 9, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Thank you for the education Kyle. That’s not sarcasm either. I will admit that I am not completely informed on that topic. I would point out though that it wasn’t just that they decided after making a promise not to fullfill it. It was after we broke away from central that they decided to back out.

    Tj the beginning to finding a solution is to recognize the problem. I happen to believe it’s a recurring problem that the schools are not being considered in planning. If you read some of my other posts on here or the numerous facebook pages I am active on, you will see that when I have a suggestion of a solution I give it. I am all for compromise. I do have to say that I don’t think it’s fair that just because my father lost the election, nobody in his family is allowed to have an opinion without being labeled bitter. I would have the same opinions even if he never ran. Why is it a bad thing that I think the schools should be considered in decision making?

  9. Scott Shelton

    June 9, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Sorry Kyle. Obviously I meant broke away from EBR.

  10. Kyle

    June 9, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    No problem.

  11. Mike Mannino

    June 9, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    I think its great that City Council is starting to listen and act on our concerns. Mr. Dejohn announced last night that they turned down the 1 time offer for the schools and worked out a sliding scale for commercial permits. We are a long way from where we need to be but as long as we start addressing issues that are recognized, I cant complain. Still dont understand how Safebuilt fits into all this because CH2 refuses to give us any information. Thats our next challenge.

  12. cmay09

    June 9, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    Is anyone willing to admit that Central tried to bite off a little more that it could chew? A school system is a major undertaking in any city. The only hope we have is for the council and CH2 to work out this issue. CH2 needs to be open with Central, if not maybe we should negotiate a better contract. Whoever gets the contract next time should be much more transparent with their policies or be released from their contract and fined. Should the transparency of the contractor be broken, they would have agreed to reimburse a percentage of what they received under that contract. Just an idea.

  13. Paul

    June 9, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    I think this is just illustrative of the near sightedness city leaders had after the incorporation. We failed to plan for a lot of things and just assumed that we would get what we wanted. We assumed we would get money from EBR that we did not get. We assumed we would not have to raise taxes. We still assume that the Sheriff’s Office will forever provide our law enforcement free of charge. We assumed we could audit CH2 and look at their records whenever we needed to. We assumed we could control the rate of growth and remain “country living in the city.” It is time we all took a realistic look at the future needs of this city and start making realistic plans for its future so we are not caught off guard again.

  14. Kyle

    June 9, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    I think the important part here is to read Dave’s article carefully. It seems the city and the school board and CH2M are working well on this together. Councilman DeJohn’s statements show that this is being resolved to a good agreement. I thank Dave for presenting the FACTS in this case and giving a clear understanding of the events.

    As for biting off more than it can chew, I have talked to a few council members, and as they state…a new city the size of Central can’t be expected to be created perfectly overnight (remember the saying “Rome was not built in a day”?) Relate this to opening up a new business. Whenever anyone opens up a new business, they have certain expectations and goals. Sometimes, they achieve these goals quickly and other times, it takes longer. Sometimes, things don’t go as planned and strategies have be changed, but that doesn’t mean they should close the business down because of a few mistakes. For a city the size of Central, if permit fees are the only thing we have to complain about, then I say the leaders have done a pretty good job. Almost any major business has to make changes and adjustments to policies over time. Look at our state legislature…they enact thousands of new laws every year and make many changes to existing ones every year to keep up with the times.

    I was reminded by someone of when the new Central school system first got started 3 years ago. Do you remember all the transportation and busing problems they were having? They hired First Student to handle all the bus routes and transportation. There were a lot of problems with the routes..not enough buses, overcrowded buses, late pickups and drop-offs, and a steady stream of complaints. The superintendent and school board members were highly criticized for this by angry parents who showed up at school board meetings. The parents wanted to get rid of First Student. However, it took some time, but the school board got the issue resolved. They worked with First Student on addressing the complaints, got more buses, and changed some things. Now, things are running smoothly with First Student (I base this on the facts that we don’t hear anything about this anymore). It took some time, but they worked out the issues. They didn’t get rid of First Student. It was something new that the school board was doing by contracting out the transportation, and they had to give it a chance to smooth itself out. I don’t recall anyone asking to see First Student’s records.

    In this country, there are differences on issues every day. We see and read them in the news every day. Fighting and arguing don’t resolve things. It only brings more harm. Finger pointing doesn’t solve things. Spreading and printing rumors to invoke fear and anger in people without facts to back them up doesn’t solve anything. What it does take is people willing to sit down and come up with solutions to improve things. If there is criticism, then let it be CONSTRUCTIVE criticism. Call up a councilman or the mayor and offer your assistance. Work Together.

    Our school board got through the First Student crisis and now things are running smooth. Our city will get through the permit fee issue and things will run smoothly. It appears that things are starting to go that way based upon the facts in Dave’s article. There are bigger things in our lives to worry about (like oil spills, wars, the economy, murders in Baton Rouge, etc) than permit fees. Let’s all work together and stay positive. That’s what’s best for us all.

    Dave, again, I thank you for having a newspaper that gives us good information. I know a lot of other people in the city who feel the same.

  15. Mike Mannino

    June 9, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    I am going to be fair about this and say that we have a steep learning curve. The only way we can make fewer mistakes is to listen to the input of the very capable people in this community. I am starting to see a small improvement and am hoping with the new council, we will see a step change. If we continue to operate as we have been, we are looking at big problems in the future. The tremendous response of the citizens during the election and continued involvement since them by many people that have been quiet to this point, will only improve things. This is despite the charges by some that we have caused a divide. We will see the friction die down and people begin to work together though different opinions exist. It is unreasonable to expect that any one faction has all the answers. Only through a combined effort will we succeed.

  16. Kyle

    June 10, 2010 at 7:41 am

    Mike: You made some very good points. Your statement “people begin to work together though different opinions exist” is in line with what I was thinking. “Only through a combined effort will we succeed” is true. Everyone needs to work together, share their opinions and ideas, and reach a common ground. They should do so peacefully and in a spirit of cooperation. That, apparently, is what is happening with the school board permits. The council, school board, Safebuilt and CH2M appear to be working together very well according to Dave’s article.

    Mike, you also said “The only way we can make fewer mistakes is to listen to the input of the very capable people in this community”. I agree. The issue here, in my opinion, is that everyone who has a concern about anything should contact their elected officials in a professional manner and work together. Our elected officials don’t always know what people’s concerns are unless the people contact them! As you stated, people have different opinions and it will be impossible to satisfy everyone, but good discussions can lead to compromises. You are right when you say no one faction has all the answers. That goes to show that there are two sides to every issue, and good communication is a key to resolving issues. This is not only true here, but in any organization or work place.

  17. Mike Mannino

    June 10, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    I think one thing the council can do is to have a public comment period at the end of the council meeting. This would be just to ask a question that the council can answer at a later date if necessary. Limit it to a question, no debate. This would set up a process that may eliminate some of the questions and comments we are seeing posted that are speculation, including some of mine by the way. Right now, the average citizen doesnt know how to get a question addressed. Just a thought of how we can “officially” address some of the retoric we see right now. Zachary has this and I believe Ms. Morris helped them to establish their procedures for their council meetings.

  18. Tim Lazaroe

    June 10, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    Mike and Kyle: I (and certainly many others) appreciate your thoughtful and cordial discussion.

  19. jps24

    June 23, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Maybe someone ought to start researching where the alot of the kids live who are going to Central Schools. I bet if someone started knocking on doors they would find out that at least 25% of those kids don’t live in the district and the parents are lying about their residence.

  20. jps24

    June 23, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    and that would eliminate some of the over-crowding problem.

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