Upshur looks at floodplain permit fees

The Inter-Mountain photo Terri Jo Bennett, Upshur County building permit officer, discusses adding a fee for building permits located in the floodplain.

BUCKHANNON — The Upshur County Commission is exploring adding a fee for county floodplain permits that will help it recoup some of the costs associated with processing the permits.

Upshur County is one of seven counties in the state that does not charge for floodplain permits, according to a list prepared by county building permit officer Terri Jo Bennett.

Randolph County has a $20 fee but additional fees based on the value of the construction or if work began prior to obtaining the permit may be charged.

Bennett provided a list of what other counties do and shared information on three different scenarios for Upshur County’s flood plain permits.

With a .25 percent fee for residential and 1 percent for commercial, Upshur County could have collected $70,569.50 since Jan. 1, 2017 on floodplain permits. Using that same time period, it could have collected $75,637.17 for a 1 percent fee for both residential and commercial or $14,250 if it charged $250 for residential structures and $500 for commercial structures fees in the floodplain. There have only been two flood plain permits issued so far in the current calendar year.

Commission president Sam Nolte said, “The one I kind of liked is the .25 percent for residential and 1 percent for commercial. I think the 1 percent overall can get kind of pricey. The flat rate would be pricey if you were doing a small project.”

Commissioner Terry Cutright asked Bennett how much Upshur County was losing from not having a floodplain permit fee.

Bennett said, “You are not being reimbursed for any of my time, the equipment, the mailings, the list can go on and on. I think the one that would probably come the closest to covering my expenses would be the flat rate fee. We literally are missing out on quite a bit by not charging something.”

After she talked with people across the state, Bennett said, “It just seems kind of silly to me that we just keep spending more and more time and money on floodplain management and not being able to recoup some of that cost.”

Bennett said for a simple floodplain case she can spend between 10 and 15 hours but those that are more complicated can mean 20 to 40 hours. The more complicated ones are often the projects people start building before they learn they need a permit. However, they are also projects that have a larger scale such as the pipeline, something Bennett said she is still working on.

“I don’t think you are ever going to completely recoup the costs that I spend, but it’s going to be something versus nothing,” she said.

Most of the other counties use a scaling fee.

“I don’t necessarily think that is the best scenario,” she said. “I don’t require you to give me proof that the house you are building is a $200,000 house or the garage that you are building is a $15,000 garage. I’m just literally taking their word for it that is the cost they are going to have in it. When you try to do it on a scaling fee, that leaves a little more black and white, the gray area in there. If it’s just a flat rate coup, you know you are at least going to recoup some of the time and money I am spending on the county dollar.”

Bennett said the cost of a regular building permit fee is $15 for residential and commercial – something she hears complaints about from residents because they are both the same.

“It would be my suggestion that you do have a different fee structure rather it is a residential building being done in the floodplain or it’s commercial,” she said.

Cutright said he believed the county needed more time to consider options and moved to table the decision which was seconded by commissioner Kristie Tenney. The motion passed unanimously.

Bennett said that the county will have to get approval from the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and FEMA to approve changes to the ordinance — even just adding a fee.

Upon motion by Cutright, seconded by Tenney, the commission unanimously approved updated procedures to dispatch wrecker servicers.

Assistant county administrator Tabatha Perry said a meeting was held recently to discuss the procedures.

“The fire departments and a few of the represented towing services within Upshur County made recommendations as to what they think would improve the procedures,” she said. “That included immediate automatic dispatch when there is a motor vehicle accident.”

Some of the changes also outlined state requirements to be followed such as clean-up of debris, excluding hazardous materials.

The commission was awarded $67,783 through the West Virginia Courthouse Facilities Improvement Authority for rebuilding chimneys at the former jail facility, a historical property. The grant required a 20 percent match of $16,945 from the county.

Perry said the repairs are needed before a future roofing project can be undertaken.

“This is phase one of two or three phases,” she said. “Next, will be the roof and then the stonework.”

On Thursday, the commission approved a request for proposals for the project. All sealed bids must be received no later than 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 14 and will be opened at the May 16 commission meeting.

In other business, the commission:

• reviewed correspondence from Emily Laird, cultural resources specialist for Environmental Resources Management, seeking comments on historic properties that may be impacted by the proposed 70-feet raw land-new build monopole at the Spruce Fork Valve Site and a 90-feet raw land-new build monopole at the Carter Valve Site.

• met in executive session to review an application for donated leave.

• approved Kayla Belt as a volunteer with the Lewis-Upshur Animal Control Facility.

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