County must fix problems with building permits

Published 10:43 am Friday, March 9, 2012

A serious flaw in Decatur County’s building permitting and licensing structure has been exposed and needs to be addressed quickly.

After listening to information brought to the Decatur County Board of Commissioners by citizen Wade Powell during the Feb. 28 meeting, I believe that our out-of-whack fee structure is severely hindering growth and building expansion in our county.

In this particular instance, Powell attempted to gain the necessary building permit to construct a 50-by-175-foot farm shed on his farm. The structure would be used to store and repair farm equipment. A portion of the building would be left open, without walls, in order to store his equipment.

The permit fee charged by the county to build this structure is $2,103.10. The value of the building was estimated at $75,000. In our neighboring counties and the City of Bainbridge, the building fee ranged from $0 on the low end to $396 on the high end. That’s a problem.

Part of the problem stems from the fact that the county only has two designations for buildings in the county — residential or commercial. Additionally, the fees schedule is structured in a way that only considers the square footage of the structure and not the value or use.

In comparison, planning director Paul Soudi indicated during that same meeting that a 1,500 square foot residence valued at $154,000 would only cost roughly $400. But because Powell’s building would be considered commercial and have a much larger square footage, the fee would be five times higher. For a farm shed.

By the way, I applaud Powell on his approach and preparation during his address of the commissioners. If there ever was an example of the correct way to address a governing body, and get the intended results, Powell’s presentation is the benchmark.

After discussing the issue raised, the commission agreed to develop a “work group” to review the current policy and fee structure and suggest changes. I urge the commission to not let this slip through the cracks and into “committee neverland.”

This is an issue that demands quick and decisive attention. Understanding that the county is in a transition period relative to the administrative leadership of the county, the commission does not need to wait until a new administrator is in place.

To me, a little hard work, research, and common sense is all that is needed to correct this problem, a problem that the entire commission agreed needed to be addressed.

Until it is corrected, our community will not be best positioned to attract any new growth, which creates jobs. Jobs that we desperately need.

In any endeavor, you can choose to be easy to do business with or hard to do business with. Right now, it is hard to do business, relative to our fee structure and permitting, with Decatur County.

But, that is easily changed and I urge the commission to change it quickly.

Jeff Findley is the publisher of The Post-Searchlight. You can email him at jeff.findley@thepostsearchlight.com.