EATON — Preble County Commissioners approved a modification to the current building and zoning fee schedule in a 2-1 vote during their meeting on Wednesday, July 19.
The change will increase the cost of building, but the fees haven’t been raised in 11 years, according to officials.
The issue originally came up last week in the form of a public hearing during a meeting on Wednesday, July 12. The board held the second public hearing during their meeting on July 19, with significantly more public attendance, thanks to Commissioner Denise Robertson who had called and invited members of the public who might be effected by this change.
The hearing began with Brad Kramer, Director of Land Use Management, explaining what changes they are thinking of implementing.
“What we have is a proposed resolution for the building fee schedule, that includes residential building fees, commercial building fees, and then also you’ll see zoning fees on the final page of that resolution,” Kramer said.”The major changes we see for these fees is a proposal from the current fee schedule of a certain base fee on the residential and an addition six cents per square feet to a proposed nine center per square feet. Other changes in the residential are essentially adding some items that we didn’t have specified in our previous fee schedule. Consolidating some items that will be better understood if they’re grouped together.
“For example, additions and alterations, we’ve combined some of those so we didn’t have several line items for those types of things. With commercial fees you’ll see on the proposal that we did the same thing, first of all, we consolidated some items and added some items that were listed on the previous fee schedule. We’re looking from nine and a half cents per square foot to 12 cents per square foot on some items, three and a half cents per square foot and five cents per square foot on other items.. We would have to go through individually to discuss the particulars of each item. The zoning fee schedule we’re looking at really no particular changes on the zoning fees.”
Gratis Township Resident Ellen Horton spoke first when Commissioner Chris Day opened the hearing to public comments. She had a question for the board: “I’m wondering, what percentage of these fee increases will benefit the county?”
Day answered, “The way the structure works, of the fees that we charge, 90 percent goes to NIC, which is our inspection contractor and 10 percent is retained at the county.”
“Can you explain to me how that benefits the county?” Horton followed up. “We all know that we’re here for the general population of the county and their special interest. Can you tell me what the benefit is to the county of raising the fee so much?”
“I’ll speak on my behalf,” Day said. “At some point it was brought to our attention that our fee structure needed to be adjusted across the board. There were some things that were not in there. I will call it a grey area — we needed to address some of those. The major change seems to be going from six cents to nine cents per square foot, that’s really the major change, in the residential. That’s basically just the cost of doing business has gone up and it has not been increased.”
“We haven’t had a price increase in 11 years and I don’t know about you, but everything goes up,” Commissioner Rodney Creech said. “Just because we’re only getting 10 percent of the increase — we’re in the red. We’re better to make small advances than to just stay in the red.
“Do you think it costs an inspector the same amount to drive there?” he continued. “Do you think the personnel costs are the same? Do you think they are doing business back in 2006 or are they paying 2017 fees for fuel? The vendor is getting 90 percent of the $60, that’s not much.”
Horton then asked how their new fee schedule compares to other rural counties and Kramer responded, they are “right in the middle.”
Next, Eaton Resident David Maynard took the podium to speak.
“This will effect what Tim [Gray] and I are doing — I think I’ve talked to you guys about it. We’re in the property management into property investment — building new homes, doing what we have, trying to fix up old homes in Preble County and also other counties,” Maynard said.
Maynard explained, he did a cost comparison to see what it would cost him with the proposed fee structure. According to Maynard, it is an 107 percent increase in fees.
“We have to have these services, because of the State, not because of the county,” Creech said. “If you have to pay somebody $370 t0 come out and do an exhaust, it’s not the building fee. You have to pick and choose what you put in that house and then you have to have it inspected. I don’t think you want to work for free and I don’t think the inspector does either.”
The conversation continued with several other members of the public participating and airing their grievances.
“I just have one more comment about us working in red down the hall,” Robertson said. “Raising the fees and that 10 percent that we will be receiving will not impact or put a dent into the deficit. It won’t affect it that much. We will still be operating that office in the red.”
Ultimately, commissioners voted, with both Creech and Day voting in favor, and Robertson voting against.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683=4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH