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Lucas County proposes fee hikes for building permits

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Ongoing construction on a building on Central Ave. south of Sylvania, on Oct. 31, 2017.

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The Lucas County Commissioners are proposing to raise fees for building permits to pay for technology and staffing to improve service for contractors.

The new fees would apply to building, electrical, plumbing, HVAC permits for construction of single family homes, commercial buildings, and apartment complexes.

The county's Department of Building Regulations reviews and approves plans for structures in all townships and most cities and villages. Only Toledo, Oregon, and Maumee have their on building inspection departments.

The county commissioners will hold a second hearing at 11 a.m. Tuesday in the commissioner's meeting room in Government Center to take public comment about the proposed fee increases for building inspections.

The new fee schedule, if enacted, is estimated to add about $820,000 in revenue annually, allowing the building regulations department to avoid dipping into its reserve fund to balance the budget, said David Golis, the county's chief building official.

The extra revenue, he added, would be invested into the department to purchase new technology and computer software and retain staff to improve customer service and on-site inspections.

"I am a firm believer in improving efficiency to make us more accurately do our jobs better and doing it with less people," Mr. Golis said, adding that the department would like to introduce software that would give contractors the option of filing plans and obtaining permits electronically.

The proposed new rates for a typical single family home construction project range from a 5.2 percent increase to $192 for plumbing permits to a 90 percent hike for electrical permits to $190.

In the construction of a typical 2,000-square-foot commercial buildings, the proposed fees include raising plumbing permits 23.8 percent to $130 and for electrical permits to jump 56.5 percent to $310.

Mr. Golis said the last time the rates for permits were adjusted was about 10 years ago. Toledo adopted a new rate schedule with increased fees in 2015.

The new rate schedule was created after county officials consulted with construction advocacy groups to get their input about the fee increases, county officials said.

Jennifer Lynch, executive director of the Home Builders Association of Greater Toledo, said she agrees with increasing the fees because the additional money will allow the county to invest into the department with new technology and cross-training employees to handle multiple inspections.

"We understand why they are asking for the increase. We are OK with it," she said. "In the long run it will pay off in trying to improve efficiency and provide improved service."

The HBA represents about 300 businesses and companies involved in the home construction industry.

Kevin X. Smith, chief executive of the Associated General Contractors of Northwest Ohio, said the proposed rates are reasonable for the service provided by the building regulations department.

“The new fees have been warranted,” he said. “The county has been pretty responsive to our needs when you look at the time it takes for things to be processed.”

Contact Mark Reiter at markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.

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