Gov't

Council Set to Lower Permit Fees by Eliminating City’s Share

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By Dave Freneaux

    While the vote to implement a reduction in residential permit fees was deferred so the details could be worked out, the public and the Council all agreed at Tuesday's City Council meeting that residential permit fees can and should be reduced.  Two months ago, at the December 14th Council Meeting, Council Member Louis DeJohn stated:  "I don't think the City ought to get a nickel out of it.  The 10% was originally set up in case they weren't collecting enough money to cover the services without asking us to raise taxes.  After three years I think we can safely say that that money is not necessary.  So, what we are doing is we are taxing the people ourselves."  "If they (the City) have a fee structure in which the City gets taxes, I would appreciate it if we would delinieate it and get it off there."  Both the City Services Committee and the City Council are poised to do just that.

    The City Services sub-committee on Permits has done a tremendous amount of research, resulting in data which clearly indicates that residential permit fees can be reduced simply by eliminating the 15% of permit fees currently designated to be paid to the City of Central.  Pete Firmin, Chair of the Permits sub-committee, worked with his committee and other citizens to produce a computer model detailing the impact of lowering permit fees.  The data supports the concept that permit fees can be reduced if the portion designated to be paid to the City were eliminated as Councilman Dejohn requested in December.

    On Monday night the Mayor's City Services Committee, referred to by Councilman Washington as "The Dream Team", voted to recommend that permit fees be reduced.  The unanimous vote was to eliminate the City's share and have 100% of the permit fees collected be kept by the contractor providing permitting services for the City as payment for those services.

     An Ordinance was introduced by Council Member LoBue at Tuesday's Council meeting which would reduce residential permit fees on an average new home from an estimated $1,550 down to an estimated $1,141.  The Ordinance, if implemented on July 1, 2011, would result in the reduced permit fees being funded entirely by eliminating the 15% of all permit fees designated to be paid to the City.  The Council and the public all spoke in favor of this change, but the timing of the change became controversial.

    The Ordinance to reduce permit fees, if passed, would have taken effect immediately, causing the funding for the current City Services contract to be reduced for the remaining four months of the contract.  There was debate as to whether this was even allowable under the current contract.  An amendment was introduced making the effective date of the change July 1, 2011, which would coincide with the beginning of the new City Services Contract, allowing the bidders to be aware of the new permit fee structure before they bid on the contract.  Many citizens came to the podium in support of the amendment, stating that to try to reduce payment to the current contractor without negotiating the change to the contract would be unfair.  Some speakers pointed out that such a move would cause Central to be seen as a questionable business partner in the eyes of potential bidders on other contracts.  Despite the overwhelming public support expressed from the podium, the amendment to delay the permit fee change until July 1 was defeated by a 3-2 vote, with Council Members LoBue, Messina and Washington voting against the amendment.

     With the amendment defeated, the original Ordinance was to be voted on.  Again, the public spoke heavily in favor of the change, but speakers again expressed that the Ordinance should not be implemented unless the effective date were moved to July 1.  Several who spoke stated that their only concern was saving tax dollars and supported the amendment even if it were effective immediately.  Mayor Watts expressed that he would be unwilling to approve the ordinance as written unless the change were first negotiated with the current City Services contractor.  A veto of the ordinance by the Mayor could be overridden by a 4-1 vote of the Council.  Council member Aaron Moak moved to defer the agenda item and the motion passed 3-2 with Council Members DeJohn, Moak and Washington in favor and Lobue and Messina opposed.  There seems to be no obstacle to reducing permit fees effective July1, 2011.

8 Comments

  1. Ray

    February 24, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    Though the stories are based on the same subject, the differences in the writing between the cities two publications is amazing. It is also amazing how different your emotions are after reading the two different writing styles.

    • dave

      February 24, 2011 at 6:47 pm

      Ray, can you elaborate?

  2. Ray

    February 24, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    Dave, I read your various newer postings earlier today regarding the last city services meeting and felt pretty positive about what I read. I was a little puzzled about how some of the votes concerning the permits played out, but would wait for an opinion after seeing the video when posted.(will the video be posted?). I remembered this was the thursday that CCN publishes so I went to the website and read columns on the same meeting, and afterword thought we could have people spilling into the streets much like in Egypt protesting our Mayor like he is Mubarik. Hi-Jacked,By-Passed, Jam the Council, Power Politics, Shutting out the Public, One Man Rule, Company Town and Public Insiders were terms used to describe what is happening in the city services meetings. Dave you wouldn’t stand a chance if you and Woody were in the movie business.

    • dave

      February 24, 2011 at 11:47 pm

      Ray,

      I agree. Fortunately for me, we are not in the Movie business, we are in the News business. So, here is what anyone can do: Videos of both meetings are on CentralSpeaksTV as of a couple of hours ago. Watch the videos and then read the newspaper coverage. You might also read the Attorney General Opinions referenced in the CentralSpeaks.com articles, and maybe even the Lawrason Act itself. Easy to Google.

      After all that, which will consume approximately 4 hours, see if you think I have a place in the news business. I can take constructive criticism as well, so don’t hold back.

      I am also considering a couple of changes for next week’s paper. We have an awesome chase scene planned, and guest appearances by Jennifer Anniston and Sean Connery. The following week we kick off “Survivor – Central City Council” in which the Council, Mayor, and 8 Citizens (one chosen by each Council Member and three by the Mayor) compete to see who is the last one standing at the end of a twelve hour Council Meeting about ethics, bars, zoning changes, the Master Plan and roundabouts. Who says I can’t compete!?!?!

      Dave

  3. Ray

    February 25, 2011 at 1:12 am

    Can elaborate be defined and pronounced in two different ways? For example, Dave, do you care to elaborate on the meeting, or Woody, what an elaborate story.

  4. Tim Lazaroe

    February 26, 2011 at 10:09 am

    Dave, I think at the next busniness awards banquet we should establish a category for “Most Dramatic Newspaper”. You will definitely be the longshot, but I’ll be pulling for you!

  5. Kyle

    February 27, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    After watching the video of the council meeting on 2/22/11, I am concerned as to why three council members (Lobue, Washington, and Messina) voted against what the overwhelming majority of the speakers at the podium spoke in favor of, that being to delay the new permit structure until July 1 when a new contract will take place. It seems to me that they had their minds made up before the meeting to do it now and the public’s comments and suggestions did not phase them. Councilman Washington did change his vote the second time around after hearing from the public, but the other two didn’t.

    I agree with what most of the speakers were saying. Don’t break a contract. Apparently, three council members wanted to do that for no apparent good reason. At least Councilman Washington came to his senses and changed his vote to defer it.

  6. Paul

    March 3, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    Hey Dave, let me know when Jennifer Anniston arrives! She is hot!!! LOL

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