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Trustee questions 'formula' in Paonia building permit fee

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Exactly what did "35 + formula" mean in passage of a 2015 resolution by the Paonia board of trustees in adopting a new town fee schedule?

The question was brought before the board on March 27 by trustee Suzanne Watson, who requested that the issue be placed on the agenda. She wanted to know how the base rate for a building permit increased from $35 to $70 after the resolution was passed.

In September of 2015, trustees voted, 6-0, to adopt Resolution 2015-13, "establishing and amending the town fee schedule." The resolution included a list of about 150 fees and fines. It was the first time the town ever adopted an official fee schedule, according to then town manager Jane Berry.

Among the fees approved is a building permit fee of "35 + formula." While it isn't referenced in the resolution, trustees were also provided back in 2015 a revised draft fee schedule listing current and proposed fees, with references to Town Code where applicable.

Today, the town building department charges a base building permit fee of $70 for valuations between $1-$500, according to a current fee schedule used by the building inspector. The schedule does not include a formula for the base rate. A building permit fee schedule available to the public also lists the base fee for total valuation of $1-$500 at $70, with no reference to a formula.

Prior to adoption of the 2015 resolution, the base building permit fee was $25 for the first $500 of valuation, with valuations from $501-$2,000 set at "$25 for the first $500.00 plus $3.35 for each additional $100.00, or fraction thereof..."

When the 2015 resolution was adopted, no building fee schedule was ever presented or attached or considered by the board in making the vote, said Watson, who was elected to the board in 2014. "When I voted on it, I thought we were just increasing the fee from $25 to $35."

Watson asked how trustees could adopt a schedule they never saw. In order to clarify the existing building permit schedule, she made a motion to direct town staff to prepare a resolution and building permit fee schedule for the board to consider at the April 10 meeting.

Mayor Charles Stewart, the mayor pro tempore in 2015, noted that the fee schedule was one of many issues the board was dealing with at the time. "I think people inevitably forget the context under which this happened," Stewart told the DCI after the meeting. The board may need to "further action to eliminate any ambiguity as to the correct fee."

"What I have heard this evening is lots of questions," said mayor pro tempore David Bradford following a nearly half-hour discussion. "I don't believe we have enough information to actually make an intelligent decision on this motion."

Watson withdrew her original motion and requested that more information on the 2015 adoption of the fee schedule be presented to the board. The issue was tabled to the April 10 board meeting and town staff was directed to provide as much information and documentation on passage of the fee schedule as possible.

Discussion of the fee schedule coincides with the town's consideration of contracting out its building department services. Town administrator Ken Knight informed the board that the town will enter an interim contract with Colorado Code Consulting to provide its building department services. Colorado Code is a private, Denver-based company offering inspections, planning review and other building-related services to municipal governments, according to its website. The contract expires at the end of May.

Dan Reardon, the former City of Delta building inspector, now a plans analyst with Colorado Code Consulting, will provide the services identified in the contract. Reardon, who separated recently from the City of Delta after having been placed on administrative leave in February, has acted as interim town building inspector since the town released former building inspector Dave Coleman last December. The town did not provide a reason for Coleman's release, citing personnel issues, and has not found a qualified inspector to fill the position.

The town is currently considering long-term contracts with Colorado Code and SAFEbuilt. Trustees voted in February to allow Knight to pursue contracting building department services with SAFEbuilt, which is also a private company providing building services to local governments. At the time, Knight said that contracting with SAFEbuilt would be "a big move for the town," and would possibly transition the building department into "a compliance department as opposed to a building enforcement department."

Paonia resident Dorien Bethune, who has more than 46 years of experience in the field, questioned the decision to pursue an out-of-town company to provide local services. "I think you need to have someone who is here and who knows the old codes and the new code and is able to codify the new code to some of these old codes," said Bethune. "We need to keep it in town. And I think it's a matter of money, it's economy, it's ecological."

The board, said Knight, has the final say in whether to contract with one of the two firms, or to continue to use an in-house building official. Due to the high volume of work and the need for building inspection services, and because the contract doesn't extend into next year's budget, "I believe this is an administrative item in that we need to keep the building department up and running," said Knight.

In other business, the board approved construction of additional storage and office space to the existing West Elk Wine & Spirit located at 427 Samuel Wade Road. Approval of construction by the town is required, since it is the liquor licensing authority.

An ordinance allowing garbage hauling costs to be set by resolution was approved and will adopted on second reading at the April 10 board meeting. The board has already approved an ordinance allowing water and sewer rates to be set by resolution.

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