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Contractors state opposition to proposed building permit fee increase

WILLMAR — Even before the Willmar City Council set an Aug. 18 date for a public hearing to consider an ordinance increasing building permit fees, contractors expressed concerns about the proposed increase.

Chad Kompelien told the council during the open forum Monday night that he understands the city is thinking about fee increases.

“The citizens of Willmar probably need to know why are we raising building permit fees,’’ said Kompelien.

John Chester, owner of Chester Contracting of Willmar, asked why fees are going up.

“I think we’re already paying more than we should for building permit fees,’’ he said, and he cited two examples of his personal experience.

Chester said he recently he applied for a permit for a $30,000 project, but the permit valued the project at $49,000.

“I’m paying permit fees on $19,000 worth of construction that I’m not even building. I’m already paying more for permits than I should be for that,’’ he said.

The second case happened about 5 years ago when Chester said he was told a permit fee for a project would be about $24,000, but learned later the fee would be $30,000. Chester said his complaint fell on deaf ears.

During later discussion in the council agenda, Bruce Peterson, director of planning and development services, said the council directed staff to pursue adoption of a new fee schedule that would result in an approximate 10 percent increase in building and plumbing permits, effective Jan. 1, 2015.

Peterson said the necessary ordinance has been prepared using the fees recommended by staff and as discussed by the Community Development Committee on June 12 and by the full council on June 16.

Committee Chair Rick Fagerlie made the motion to set the hearing date. Councilman Denis Anderson, serving as mayor in the absence of Mayor Frank Yanish, asked for a second to the motion. Hearing none, he seconded it

Councilwoman Audrey Nelsen asked how the fees are calculated. She also requested a comparison of what other cities are charging.

Peterson said the state provides a square-foot rate to calculate values for different types of construction. When his department receives plans, based on the type of construction, his department applies those square-foot rates and calculates the value based on the state standard.

“It is not typically the same exactly as what the contractor would agree to build the project for. It was done to create uniformity across the state, recognizing differences between metropolitan areas and rural areas,’’ he said.

“So the square-foot rates that we apply are already adjusted for our geographic area. It’s typical that the amount that we calculate is not going to be the same as what the contractor calculates,’’ Peterson continued.

“If a contractor calls and wants a building permit estimate, rather than telling us what he thinks the value is, he should tell us how many square feet and what the type of construction is going to be, and in 2 minutes staff can call him back and have a much more accurate calculation formed,’’ he said.

Councilman Ron Christianson, himself a contractor, said the council’s action is just to set the hearing. Christianson said he shared Kompelien’s and Chester’s concerns and said they can return and express their concerns at the hearing.

Christianson asked where the proposed 10 percent increase came from. He requested a five-year history of revenues and expenses,and he asked how much Kandiyohi County pays the city for providing inspection services to the county.

Fagerlie requested information about possibly increasing commercial fees but keeping residential fees unchanged.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150