Monmouth eyes permit price hike

MONMOUTH -- Monmouth may hike its building permit prices next month, its first increase since 1991.

MONMOUTH -- Monmouth may hike its building permit prices next month, its first increase since 1991.

Mechanical permits would rise, on average, by about 6 percent while plumbing and structural permits would rise by about 12 percent to 13 percent, per a recommendation by Larry Thornton, city building official.

The amounts are significantly less than rates Thornton proposed to the Monmouth City Council late last year, which called for average increases of 18 percent, and, for fees for some smaller improvements, hikes as large as 30 percent and 40 percent.

Home Builders Association of Marion and Polk Counties and some local developers had publicly opposed amending rates back then. The City Council is expected to vote on the new schedule at its March 17 meeting.

The building department is a self-sustained fund in Monmouth's operating budget, and issuing permits is the primary revenue source.

Thornton said the city's permit costs have remained stagnant for almost two decades, and rank below those of most surrounding communities.

The previous proposal would have brought Monmouth up to levels comparable to neighboring cities, though City Council deemed the increase too large given the nation's dismal construction market. The revision puts Monmouth at a level just below Dallas.

"If we got back to a normal (economy), this would put us back on normal footing," Thornton said.

Under the new rates, collective increases for permits for a new single family home valued at $200,000 would be approximately $246.56.

Monmouth issued almost 700 permits in 2007, and less than 300 in 2008. Because of the decline, the department cut two full-time staff positions last year.

"It's pretty early in the year," Thornton said, "but right now we're on track for less than 300."

Thornton said a suggestion being mulled to ensure permit prices are updated in a manner less jarring to builders than playing "catch-up" for long periods is implementing 2 percent or 3 percent annual increases, based on a Consumer Price Index, Thornton said.

In other city news:

* The council adopted Monmouth's first truancy ordinance, which allows officers to stop youths between 7 and 18 years of age if they are off campus during school days.

If a quick check with parents and school officials reveals the absence is unexcused, the officer will transport the child back to school or hold them at the police department until a parent or guardian picks them up.

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