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Published: Tuesday, 3/9/2010

3 hopefuls back joint city, county agency

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Three candidates for county commissioner independently came out against raising county building inspection fees Monday and urged action toward merging the city and county building inspection agencies.

Democrats Ben Krompak and Michael Zychowicz and Republican George Sarantou issued statements at-tacking the proposed increases as bad for the construction business.

Mr. Krompak called for the county to merge its building inspection office of six people under the city of Toledo's, which has a staff of 22.

Mr. Zychowicz urged the county to consolidate with other local jurisdictions and to explore merging with Fulton and Wood counties as well.

Mr. Sarantou called for a “thorough analysis” of a study that was completed and provided to the city about a year ago by a consultant the city and the county hired. That consultant, Steve Herwat, now the deputy mayor for operations under Mayor Mike Bell, advocated the city's building inspection office be absorbed by the county.

“We do not need another study. Clearly it makes sense to me that the county and the city need to analyze the results of that study to ensure that it would save money, and serve the construction industry well,” Mr. Sarantou said.

Mr. Krompak said, “These fees would hit the construction industry at a time when our community is confronting a crisis of construction unemployment.

“If ever there was a time we'd be consolidating departments, now would be the time to do it,” he said.

He also opposed creating fees for new alternative-energy technologies, such as solar and wind turbine electrical generation.

Mr. Zychowicz said, “With the challenges the city of Toledo faces and with new leadership in the mayor's office, I am certain the climate is right for such a consolidation.”

Among the proposed new fees are a $50 certificate of occupancy and a $100 “plan review” fee for new residential and commercial construction and $100 for new solar and wind-powered electricity generators.

The proposed new and higher fees would raise $136,075 based on the department's 2008 activity, an increase in revenue of about 14 percent.

Commission President Pete Gerken said despite reduction in staff of the county building inspection department from a peak of 17 to 6 now, the office is not self-sufficient. He said the alternatives are to raise fees, merge with other jurisdictions, or close the office and let the state administer building codes.

The commissioners are scheduled to hold a hearing at 9:30 a.m. today in Government Center.

In January, the three commissioners invited the mayors of Toledo, Oregon, and Maumee to join discussions about partnering.

All three cities have certified chief building officials, as did Lucas County until January when the most recent chief building official, John Walters, retired.

Mr. Krompak of East Toledo, Mr. Sarantou of West Toledo, and Mr. Zychowicz of Sylvania Township, are among six Democrats and four Republicans running in the May 4 primary for the commissioner seat being vacated by Democrat Ben Konop, who is not seeking re-election.

Contact Tom Troy at:tomtroy@theblade.comor 419-724-6058.



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