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Board OKs building permit fee increase

Charges raised to offset inspections office deficit after housing boom died

By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- The Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors agreed on Tuesday to raise building permit fees.

District 1 Supervisor Dick Neese was the lone nay vote.

"I agree that fees are probably out of line, but I'm not sure that this is the time to be adjusting them," he said.

Building Official Geary Showman compared the county's schedule of building fees to those of surrounding counties, and tried to keep the rates in the mid-range, District 5 Supervisor Dennis Morris said.

According to documents supplied with the Board of Supervisors' packet, the building boom earlier this decade resulted in a revenue surplus between fiscal 2002 and fiscal 2006.

Since then, however, the building inspections office has had a deficit. In fiscal 2008, that deficit was $172,920, and it might be more than $250,000 for fiscal 2009, the documents say. The projected deficit for the current fiscal year is about $170,000.

Permit fees for new homes are now 15 cents per square foot, up from 10 cents, with the minimum doubling from $50 to $100. The same square-footage fee applies to additions and alterations, although the minimum fees are $75, up from $50 and $30, respectively.

For commercial buildings, the fees have gone from 16 cents to 20 cents per square foot. The minimum fee remains the same at $75.

The supervisors had to look at what it costs the county to send out inspectors, District 6 Supervisor Conrad Helsley said.

"If we don't have a fee schedule that covers the cost, then the taxpayers have to pick up the additional cost of our personnel," he said.

In other Board of Supervisors' matters:

* A memorandum of understanding with Ameresco Inc. to perform an energy and water savings audit in county buildings was approved. The contract is for $10,637.

After the audit, the supervisors will decide whether to make the suggested energy-saving steps, Assistant County Administrator Mary T. Price said.

"The money that we save is what pays for the infrastructure change, because it's done over a period of time," she said.

The county will get a check from Ameresco if its auditors are wrong in their estimates, Price said.

"Ameresco is guaranteeing a certain amount of savings," she said.

* New Market Volunteer Fire Chief Matt Hughes asked the panel what needed to be done to restore the department's annual funding. It was halted last November after a forensic investigator's audit turned up suspected fraud.

Since then, a number of members have been canned, locks have been changed, an independent bookkeeper has been hired and the town has restored funding, Hughes said.

"I believe that we've done everything that you've asked in your resolution," he said. "We cannot continue to operate without the county funds."

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