School Permit Fee Negotiation Nears Conclusion

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By Dave Freneaux

How exactly does $437,469 become less than $166,404? Begin with a $437,469, which was not a permit fee proposed or charged by the Central permit office, but an internal estimate generated by the Central Community School System not intended to be an official interpretation of Central’s permit fee structure. Remove all of the items which, once the permits are actually applied for, are not subject to building permits, reducing the number by $160,129, and you are left with $277,340. Then reduce that number by the 40% discount already agreed to in principal by all parties 2 1/2 months ago in March, subtracting $110,936, leaving potential permit fees of $166,404. Then, as indicated by Louis DeJohn at the May 25th City Council meeting, have all parties continue negotiating in good faith to arrive at permit fees which are fair to all parties and ensure that the renovations and construction of Central’s schools are safe and meet code, and you end up at final proposed permit fee for all school renovations, which is yet to be determined, but will be, in Mr. DeJohn’s words at this Tuesday’s Council Meeting, "lower than any in the area."

One of the most important things to understand in this whole process is that it has been an ongoing negotiation which began two and a half months ago when the impact of Central’s permit fee rates on multi-million dollar projects came to light for the first time. Councilman Louis DeJohn, who has been involved with Central’s permit fee structure from the beginning, spoke with and explained the details of the school permit fee and the resulting impact on the entire commercial fee structure on the books in Central. As early as March the City could have agreed to a one-time reduction in the permit fee for the school construction, but it was agreed that a "sliding scale" fee structure should be implemented which accounts for large projects, rather than just fixing one case and then having to revisit the issue again each time a large opportunity for economic growth came to Central.

Mr. DeJohn expressed regret that when the commercial fees were originally considered by council and citizens in workshops and meetings, and ultimately approved in a Council meeting open to the public, no one anticipated the disproportionately high fees which would be imposed on large projects. But, there is a first time for everything in Central, and this first large project has helped to solve the fee structure for all future construction. He admitted that the fees were "tested" up through a million dollar project, but that projects such as the new schools were not even in the realm of consideration at the time.

With "sliding scale" commercial fees as a goal, the City of Central, CH2M HILL and Safebuilt are currently negotiating a commercial fee structure to be introduced at the June 23rd City Council meeting and voted on in July. Mr. DeJohn asked the Council and the citizens of Central to "give this process time to finish."