Building permit fees to increase

Builders association may ask city to reduce valuations in response

— Most builders say they won't be affected by a proposed 11.7 percent increase in Routt County Building Department permit fees.

Permit fees for building, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, grading and other construction-related projects have not increased since 1996. But when expenditures at the Routt County Building Department exceeded revenues by $115,000 last year, despite the salary cushion of two employees retiring, officials decided it was time to raise fees, chief building officer Mark Marchus said.

"This department is funded by fees and fees alone," Marchus said. "By law, we cannot be a revenue stream for the agency we work for (Routt County). We're a non-profit organization, so we're only trying to make enough money to break even."

Marchus said the building department has exceeded its budget in the past and responded by making budget cuts the following year. But Marchus said for the department to continue providing the same level of service without cutting jobs, raising permit fees is necessary.

Routt County still has some of the lowest permit fees in Colorado -- 29 percent lower than comparable departments in Jefferson, Summit and Boulder counties.

Marchus said those building departments, however, help subsidize other county departments, such as planning or public works. In Routt County, the building department uses its revenues solely to fund itself, Routt County Finance Director Dan Strnad said.

Some local builders, however, are opposed to the fee increase. Tom Fox of Fox Construction said several members of the Yampa Valley Construction Trades Association are opposed to the increase because they think the building department should be able to support itself with its current fees.

Fox said the city of Steamboat Springs has raised the valuation of homes within the city limits over the past few years, and permit fees therefore have increased concurrently, because the fees are based on the value of the project in question.

Fox said if the Steamboat Springs City Council passes an ordinance raising the permit fees, he and several others would formally address the City Council to ask it to remove the 20 percent valuation increase.

"We want to establish a number we can all live with," Fox said.

The Routt County commissioners approved the increase in early September, and the Steamboat Springs City Council approved a second reading of the ordinance Tuesday.

The council is expected to pass the ordinance upon the third reading.

-- To reach Nick Foster call 871-4204

or e-mail nfoster@steamboatpilot.com

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