Higher permit fee could help pay for part-time inspector

Jackson County has never had someone whose only job is to inspect the work of contractors building new homes or additions to homes.

A recent increase in fees for permits for that type of work eventually might be used to fund a part-time building inspector.

The position is one county Building Commissioner Mike Weir has been working to create for several years now.

As building commissioner, Weir already has a lengthy list of titles.

“I’m secretary to the (Board of Zoning Appeals) and plan commission with all their night meetings,” Weir said. “I’m the county flood plain manager, and that can get hectic at times. I’m the (geographic information system) manager, and I’m the code enforcement officer.”

Weir said he just doesn’t feel like he can take on any more job titles, and that’s one reason he has pushed for at least a part-time building inspector.

At present, anyone who feels that a contractor left behind “shoddy work,” can contact the state for help, said Weir, who has been with the county since fall 2000.

“There are codes contractors have to follow,” he said.

A building inspector would help provide local protection for consumers, Weir said.

“We’ve never had that,” he said.

Weir said that, even with a building inspector, every problem can’t be caught.

The Jackson County Council approved the fee increase Jan. 1. Weir said it was the first increase since 1997.

He said the plan is to look at how much money the new fee schedule generates at some point near budget-writing time this summer.

Council President Leon Pottschmidt said the council talked about looking at revenue at budget time to see if hiring a part-time building inspector would be possible. He said another reason a building inspector could be important is because of talk about the federal government’s efforts to increase the energy efficiency of new homes.

There has been talk that the federal government is looking at requiring 90 percent of all new homes constructed to meet efficiency requirements by 2017 or at least be working in that direction. Any place not meeting that requirement might not be eligible for federal grant monies.

A building inspector would help ensure those standards are met, Weir said.

Weir said the old rates for those permits weren’t coming close to covering the costs of paying the five members of the zoning board to meet or the nine members of the plan commission to meet. Those members receive $40 for each meeting they attend.

Pottschmidt said that’s another reason the council voted to raise fees.

Besides paying board members to attend meetings, the county also has to pay an attorney to attend those meetings.

The new fees were designed to match what Seymour charges, Weir said.

A difference in fees between the city and the county has been noticeable in the past in the two-mile fringe area outside Seymour that is controlled by the city, he said.

There can be a $300,000 home on one side of the street with a building permit that costs $40 and one on the other side of the street with a permit that costs $350, he said.

The new fee structure raises the cost for a permit for a new home from a flat $40 to 8 cents per square foot.

For a 1,700-square-foot new home — the average size of the 40 to 50 new homes built in the county each year — a permit will now cost $136, Weir said.

The new fee structure is not going to raise a lot of money, but it could create enough to help pay for a part-time building inspector, he said.

The city, however, has been talking about raising its rates, but the county is not talking about making that move at this time, Weir said.

The fee for special exceptions did rise from $50 to $300, and the fee for variances went from $50 to $150.

Carrie Hopper, regulatory affairs director with the Indiana Builders Association, said that, in her talks with builders in Jackson County, she has been told they want a building inspector.

“A second set of eyes to look at projects is always a good thing,” Hopper said.

She also said builders generally will support fees as long as they are reasonable and they feel they are getting services.

By the numbers

Jackson County Council adopted new fees for residential and commercial construction on Jan. 1.

Type;Old;New

New construction*;$40;8 cents

;;per square foot

Additions;$20;$75

Accessory structures;$20;$75

Special exception;$50;$300

Variance;$50;$150

Rezone;$60;$300

Vacate;$50;$150

Inground pools;$20;$50

*New construction includes residences, duplexes and manufactured homes on permanent foundations.

Author photo
Aubrey Woods is editor of The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at awoods@tribtown.com or 812-523-7051.