Wood County may lose permit fee revenue

PARKERSBURG – Looking for new revenue sources, Wood County commissioners are asking planners to review the county’s current fee structure in comparison to other counties/cities.

Several months ago, commission President Wayne Dunn asked department heads and county officials to look into cost-cutting and revenue-producing measures. John Reed, Wood County building permits and compliance officer, provided the commissioners a list of the county’s fees in comparison to other areas showing some Wood County fees were minimal or non-existent.

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

“Based on other counties, municipalities, we could increase our fees,” Commissioner Blair Couch said, noting one example was the county’s $30 fee charged for three years of demolition at the former Johns Manville property. If that property had been located in the city of Vienna, the fee would have been $13,680,” Couch noted.

Couch suggested forwarding the fee comparisons to planners for review and recommendation back to the county commission.

“We don’t want to discourage anyone from getting a permit, it’s important to report because the information about building, demolition is turned over to the assessor so adjustments in value can be made. Adding new fees onto people is always difficult. I’d like to hear from the builders as well,” Couch said.

County administrator Marty Seufer suggested the matter first be referred to the planning commission’s special counsel Blaine Myers for advice on the proper procedure for changing the fees. The commissioners agreed to forward the information to Myers then refer it to planners for presentation at the next regularly scheduled meeting, which will probably be December.

A building permit is required for any improvement done to property in Wood County. The property owner is the one responsible for getting the building permit here; in the city, it’s the contractor. Currently, Wood County has 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. The county has a flat fee of $10 for remodeling, repair or replacement, excluding room additions.

“I don’t know why or how this was determined, but the county has a special rate of $10 for specific things like gutters, rewiring, or adding a driveway. I don’t know how that was determined, it was in place when I took over the job. I don’t know how they decided which projects would qualify for the $10 rate, no other county has that,” 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.

* 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 is $272.50; Parkersburg, $900; Vienna, $525; Williamstown, $235, and in Belpre, $300.

* Comparison of a new commercial structure valued at $250,000 for 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.

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 0.0044 to 0.0051 for residential and 0.0076 to 0.0084 for commercial.

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