County’s building permit fees questioned

Published 10:53 pm Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Decatur County citizen addressed the Decatur County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, questioning the fairness of the county’s building permit fees.

During the public participation portion of the regular board meeting, Wade Powell told commissioners that he had recently built a 50-by-175-foot structure. He said the structure was built to hold farming equipment and other items, but would not be used as a residence.

He noted that the county building department told him that the county only has two designations for structures — residential and commercial. He said the building was classified as “commercial” and therefore was permitted as such, with a fee of $2,103.10.

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“That fee does not include the plumbing or electrical fees,” he said. “This fee is the amount of a building that costs only about $75,000.”

Powell said he researched permitting fees of surrounding counties, and that Decatur County’s building permit fees are “over 16 times the average fees” of the neighboring fees, at least for buildings similar to his farm shed.

Powell said his research showed the following fees for an agricultural-based building similar to his farm shed: Grady County — $0, Seminole County — $0, Miller County — $360 (includes plumbing and electrical permits), Mitchell County — $150.30, Early County — $75 (flat fee on all buildings), Thomas County — $396, City of Bainbridge — $365.

“I would personally like to know why our permit fees are so much higher, and also why there is no ‘agricultural’ designation in addition to residential and commercial,” he said.

Powell said he was told that the county based its building permit fees on square footage, without taking into account the materials in the construction, or the building’s use.

“So in our county, I could build a building that’s 50-by-175-feet and put a bank in it, and it would have the same fee as my farm shed,” he said.

Powell said he thought the county needed to update its building permit fee schedule to differentiate between residential, commercial and agricultural use.

He also said that the fees should not be based on square footage, but on other factors such as building materials and the building’s use.

During the regular board meeting, Commissioner Russell Smith made a motion for Planning Department Director Paul Soudi and a “work group” to review the existing fee schedule, determine any necessary changes, and bring those recommendations before the board at an upcoming meeting.

Commissioner Oliver Sellers seconded Smith’s motion, and the board passed the motion unanimously.