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Published: Wednesday, 3/10/2010

Building-permit fee hike is rejected by vote of 3-0

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Lucas County commissioners yesterday voted down a proposed 14 percent increase in building-permit fees, opting instead to pursue consolidation of the function with Toledo, Maumee, and Oregon, which also enforce building codes.

The 3-0 vote rejecting the new fee schedule appeared to be a foregone conclusion by the time commissioners heard a sampling of opinions from builders and contractors opposing it.

Commissioners' President Pete Gerken said the proposed increases and new fees were suggested by the county's administrative staff after the commissioners asked for ideas for making the building inspection service self-sufficient.

"In fairness to the departments that did the work, we accepted their report," Mr. Gerken said, explaining how it came to be the subject of two public hearings.

Kurt Miller, owner of Miller Diversified development company and chairman of the land development committee for the Toledo Home Builders Association, said the higher fees would be a disincentive to the already struggling construction industry.

"There are better alternatives, perhaps merging the building departments," Mr. Miller said. About 14 people in the audience stood to show support of Mr. Miller's comments.

The downturn in the economy has resulted in a dramatic reduction in construction activity, as well as a decline in fees for the county's building inspection office. Fees fell to $696,610 in 2009 from $958,371 in 2008.

Mr. Miller objected in particular to a proposed fee on new alternative-energy installations, saying that under the proposed fees, obtaining the necessary permits for a typical residential solar installation would cost about $700.

Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak said the county reached out to the administration of former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner four years ago about combining building inspection departments, but with little response.

Commissioner Ben Konop noted that merging building departments was suggested in the 83-page "21st Century Government" report he commissioned in 2007.

"I'm a little surprised the city hasn't been a little more aggressive on this. There are many other departments we should take a look at as well," Mr.

Konop said.

In 2008, the commissioners and the city of Toledo jointly commissioned a study by Steve Herwat, then a private consultant and now Mayor Mike Bell's deputy mayor for operations. That study recommended Lucas County absorb the city's building inspection division with savings for both entities.

Yesterday, Bill Brennan, commissioner for building inspection, said his office was sending Mayor Bell a tentative proposal under which the county's building office would close and its territory would be divided among Toledo, Maumee, and Oregon.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.


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