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Commissioners reconsider increased permit fee, water rate increase

Posted: February 2, 2014 - 1:09am

Columbia County officials agreed to take a second look at an increased fee for those who start work before getting a permit.

James O’Neal, the owner of Liberty Plumbing of Augusta, spoke before the Development and En­gineering Services Com­mittee on Tuesday

A typical contractor permit obtained before work begins costs $55. The county Construction Advisory Board agreed in October to raise the cost of a permit obtained after work began to $500, mainly as an incentive for contractors to get their permits before beginning work.

“The fine is pretty substantial,” O’Neal said.

He said he began work on an “emergency” project in the evening and his office staff got the permit a day or two later.

He said such a large cost often outweighs the benefits of smaller jobs and can put a hardship on small business owners.

“It helps us as much as anybody else,” O’Neal said, agreeing with the increased fee because it helps keep work from being done by unlicensed contractors.

But he said the cost is punitive.

He suggested that county officials revisit the permit fee schedule to make the cost “more reasonable” or consider adding a three-day leeway before the increase is imposed.

Development Services Division Director Paul Scarbury said the board already considered the toll of the increased cost of the permit on contractors, but he and county commissioners agreed to ask the board to revisit it.

Water Utility Director William Clayton suggested the Public Works Committee consider a 1.9 percent rate increase in water and tape fees.

If approved by commissioners, rates will increase 1.9 percent each year
in April 2014 through 2016.

Columbia County Com­mission Chairman Ron Cross agreed to stop pushing for a display screen at Evans Towne Center Park.

All bids came in way budget, and the project was becoming increasingly complicated.

“I finally admit defeat on this video screen,” Cross said, adding that the county can rent a screen at minimal cost.

Scarbury said $150,000 was allocated in the 2006-2010 1 cent sales tax.

He suggested to the commissioners on the Public Works Committee to reallocate $50,000 of that money to go toward an expansion of the playground at the park, a project voters approved as part of the 1 cent sales tax list.

The rest of the funds will go toward other approved projects.

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