(Photo by Scott Welton, Staff)
SIKESTON -- City officials are seeking input from residents on their plan to increase building permit and inspection fees.
During the Oct. 6 City Council meeting, Linda Lowes, director of governmental services, advised the costs of conducting building inspections and issuing permits -- a total of $95,810 -- exceed the revenues generated from these activities by $53,621.
While these figures are taken from the city's most recent audit, the decision to consider adjusting the fee schedule is a result of "an internal examination of our operations," Lowes said.
She explained staff members do formal comparisons of revenues generated by operations in city departments and the actual costs of operations every three or four years to spot trends and make necessary adjustments.
The total cost of $95,810 for inspections and building permits, Lowes said, reflects only the expenses of those specific activities by code enforcement officers.
"Code enforcement officers perform many functions," she noted.
City staff determined code enforcement officers spend 40 percent of their time conducting building inspections and issuing permits and have used this figure to determine the cost of conducting inspection and permitting duties, according to Lowes.
The last increase raising the value of new construction for determining building fees from $18 per square foot to $50 per square foot went into effect in 2006 with 2007 being the first full year at the increased rate.
Costs for performing building inspections and issuing permits has increased $28,715 since fiscal year 2005, Lowes said.
"A greater proportion of our time is now spent on inspections than in FY-05 when we did the initial study," she explained.
City staff determined inspections and permitting only took up 30 percent of code enforcement officers' time in FY '05, according to Lowes.
The reason more time is dedicated to inspections and issuing permits is there is significantly more construction, she said.
Code enforcement officers had to inspect and permit $14 million worth of new construction in FY '05. In fiscal year 2007, the value of construction was $21 million.
Collin Cecil, city code enforcement officer, said keeping up with the Orgill's construction alone has required a lot of the department's time this year.
"I'm generally out here twice a day," Cecil said while conducting an inspection at the Orgill site Monday. "A lot of times I'll come here first thing in the morning and will be here for two or three hours. Then I'll come out here again at about 2 p.m. for another couple of hours."
"He is out there even on Saturdays and Sundays," said Trey Hardy, community redevelopment coordinator.
At the $70-per-square-foot rate proposed by city staff, "we would be still substantially lower than both Poplar Bluff and Cape Girardeau," Lowes said. "Sikeston is not coming anywhere near the actual cost of new construction by using $70 per square foot."
Lowes said city staff expect contractors to remain happy with Sikeston's rate even if raised to the amount they are recommending. "If you are going to spend $2 million on new construction, an additional $500 is not going to make a difference," she said.
City officials are concerned about inspection and permit costs for residents making renovations to their homes, however.
"That's where our main concern is. The Council is very sensitive to the fact some people in this area may be experiencing economic hardship," Lowes said. "They do not want to do anything to inhibit construction or growth in the community, which is why they are asking for public comment on the proposed rate increase."
Lowes said they are interested in knowing if $70 per square foot would be seen as a substantial increase and if it would be a factor in their decision to proceed with renovations or not.
As of Monday, the city had not received any feedback from residents about the proposed fee increase.