County could be losing permit fee revenue

PARKERSBURG In reviewing possible revenue sources, Wood County officials noted the county could be losing out on thousands of dollars in potential income because some fees are minimal or non-existent.

Some fees are set by state statute and only can be changed by the Legislature or there are perimeters, minimum and maximum limits set. But in the case of building, demolition and related permits, the fees are set by county ordinance.

In comparing the county’s fee structure to other entities, Wood County comes out way below average.

The county commissioners recently sponsored a meeting to discuss potential cost-saving measures and consider revenue-producing moves with county officials and their staff. County compliance officer John Reed provided a comparison of other county and state fees.

“A building permit is required for any improvement done to the property in Wood County. The property owner is the one responsible for getting the building permit here; in the city, it’s the contractor,” Reed said.

Building permit information is used by the assessor’s office in finding new construction or other changes that might affect property value, Reed said.

“We have a flat fee of $10 for estimated construction cost up to $1,000. For each additional $1,000, it’s an additional $1. The fee to locate, place or maintain a single wide mobile home or house trailer is $10. We have a flat fee of $10 for remodeling, repair or replacement, excluding room additions,” Reed said.

The $10 fee applies to storage buildings, porches, stoops of patios, canopies, wooden decks, driveways, sidewalks, windows, siding, gutters, soffit, wiring updates, fences, foundation repairs, and permits in the floodplain.

Wood County relies on the homeowners estimate for construction cost to base the permit fee.

Kanawha County uses valuation as well, but Reed noted the county requires all the documentation be provided on the building costs, materials and related expenses.

“That might be too cumbersome; a lot of people are doing the work on their own and requiring them to bring in all that information might tie their hands,” Reed said.

Comparing Wood and neighboring counties and cities, for a $150,000/1,500 square foot new residence in Wood County the fee would be $159. In Washington County it would be $272.50; Parkersburg, $900; in Vienna, $525; Williamstown, $235, and in Belpre, $300.

Comparison of a new commercial structure valued at $250,000/5,000 square feet, the cost would be $259 in Wood County; $575, Washington County; $1,375, Parkersburg; $1,250, Vienna; $260 in Williamstown and $500 in Belpre. Wood County has no fee for roofing and signage.

“Wood County exempted roofing jobs from any fees several years ago following a major hail storm in the area, and the fees were never restored and we are the only entity not charging for roofing work,” Reed said.

Wood County is also the only entity that exempts nonprofits from any fees at all.

“The fee for demolition is a flat $10, which is way below some of the other entities. Vienna charges a fee rate of .0076 to .0084 on commercial valuations,” Reed said.

Reed cited demolition at Johns Manville as an example.

“The plant is currently under demolition, in year three of three years for that work it costs them a total of $30 to the county. Had the facility been in the corporate limits of Vienna, the same permit would have been $13,680.

“For residential work the city of Parkersburg charges $50; Belpre charges $50 and Washington County charges $125,” Reed said. “When the developer doing the demolition work first called, they couldn’t believe it was only $10.”

Wood County charges a flat $10 fee to set a single-wide mobile home. While many entities no longer allow the units, those that do charge regular rates.

Some counties such as Kanawha charge an additional fee for construction in a floodplain.

“This is done because under these projects, we have several pre-meetings with the builder to approve site plans and development plans and we are required to do a minimum of three inspections on site during the construction phase. Kanawha County charges $100 for residential and $300 for commercial projects in the floodplain,” Reed said.

For residential or commercial and remodeling, Kanawha charges $25 for the first $1,000 and $2.50 for each additional $1,000. Washington County charges $160 plus an additional $7.50 per square foot.

Vienna charges a valuation rate of .0044 to .0051 for residential and .0076 to .0084 for commercial.

“I have provided the information to the commissioners; any changes would be up to the elected officials,” Reed said. “But based on these comparisons, Wood County is far below the average.”

Reed noted, in some cases, current fees may not even cover operational costs involved with enforcement.