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Hernando reluctant to raise permit fees, seeks more information

BROOKSVILLE — County commissioners want to hear more details before they agree to across-the-board increases in permits for home-improvement projects.

The commissioners directed staff on Tuesday to bring back information on how the building department's revenues would be affected if fees stayed the same on improvements such as new air conditioning systems or water heaters, but were raised on optional items such as swimming pools and spas or permits requiring multiple inspections.

Commissioners also want to consider not charging the building department as much in the past to provide administrative services.

The fee increase request came about because, as a free-standing enterprise fund, the department must raise enough fees to pay for itself and it has not been doing so lately with the downturn in contruction.

Hernando County business development director Michael McHugh warned that the department will be out of money by November or December. More employees could lose their jobs or services might have to be cut without extra funding, county officials warned.

Commissioner Jim Adkins asked how the board could consider raising fees when, at a recent meeting, the group agreed to write a letter to Bright House Networks asking them to reconsider a rate increase during a time when so many citizens are facing financial challenges.

Commissioner Rose Rocco said that many people are just not getting permits to get their work done and people are reluctant to spend the money during the current economic environment.

"It's a tough decision,'' she said. "I know that the general public is out there and they are really hurting.''

Commissioner Dave Russell said he would not like to see increases in the fees for necessities such as water tanks or air conditioners, but would consider increases for items that were more wants than needs such as swimming pools. Russell is a pool contractor himself.

Other commissioners agreed. Additional information will be brought back to a future commission meeting.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

Other business

County approves leases

• County Commissioners approved a $553,000 increase in the contract for Halcrow Inc., the consultant for the Hernando Beach Channel dredging project adding to the $1,977,738 already promised to the firm. Halcrow has been negotiating with the county over the amount, having initially sought an additional $794,130. The added cost is related to various additional work items, including sea grass mitigation.

• Commissioners approved a lease of the county's recycling center to SP Recycling Corp. The county's operation of the center had cost Hernando County more than $1.3 million in the past year and only $400,000 of that was made up by selling recycled items. The company has agreed to interview the county's nine employees later this month to possibly hire them with plans for the company to take over the center April 1. Utilities director Joe Stapf indicated that the county expects an annual income of $100,000.

• The commission agreed to extend the county's franchise agreements with the existing three waste haulers until next year, a move which includes their agreement to change the required landfill hours in their contracts to six days, eight and a half hours a day. The change also drops curbside recycling to once every other week, reducing the cost to the county.

Hernando reluctant to raise permit fees, seeks more information 03/09/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 9, 2010 7:58pm]
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