City inspection fees are on the risePublished 12:05am Wednesday, August 28, 2013
NATCHEZ — Building or renovating a house in Natchez could soon be a little more expensive.
The City of Natchez is considering raising its fees for building permits and inspections.
City Planner Frankie Legaux presented a list of proposed fee increases for certificates of occupancy, electrical service inspections, permits and other services during the Natchez Board of Aldermen’s finance meeting before its regular meeting Tuesday.
Mayor Butch Brown said the reason for increasing the fees is to ensure the department of inspections covers its own costs.
“This new fee schedule will do that, and (the department) will be self-sustaining,” he said.
Brown cited the city’s $4 electrical inspection fee and other low fees as a reason the inspections department cannot cover its cost. Brown said utility companies charge $50 for a similar service.
The proposed fee schedule would increase the fee for an electrical service inspection to $45.
Legaux provided a spreadsheet outlining Natchez’s fees as they compare to other cities.
Currently, Natchez’s building permit fees start at $10 for $1,000 worth of work and go up to $456 for $100,000 worth of work.
Compared to cities such as Vicksburg, Hattiesburg, Gulfport, Madison and McComb, Natchez’s fees are lower.
The closest comparison Legaux provided was with the City of Brookhaven. Brookhaven’s fees start at $10 for $1,000 worth of work and go up to $460 for $100,000 worth of work.
The proposed increase in fees for building permits would start at $24 for $1-$500 of work and go as high as $18,327 for more than $5 million of work.
The city currently charges $25 for all certificates of occupancy. The proposed increase would change that to $50 for residential certificates and $150 for commercial certificates.
Another fee that would also increase would be re-inspections, which increase incrementally after the first inspection. The city does not currently charge for re-inspections, Legaux said.
“The idea of going up with each (inspection) is to encourage the contractor to get it right (the first time),”she said.
Other increases would include fees for permit extensions, demolition, contractor’s license and fees.
Some board members expressed hesitation in increasing the fees.
Ward 5 Alderman Mark Fortenbery asked if the planning and inspections departments’ staff looked at cities that were similar in population to Natchez.
Legaux said they did look at cities similar in size to Natchez in the northern part of the state.
“They had much higher prices, that’s why we decided to stick with the (cities) closer to us,” Legaux said.
Ward 1 Alderwoman Sarah Smith said she would like to see the fees updated more regularly so the increases would be smaller and more palatable to residents and developers.
“I would much rather do this regularly because it’s going to be a bit of sticker shock for people,” she said.
Fortenbery said he was worried that with the abundance of dilapidated housing in Natchez, people would be even more reluctant to repair their houses if the fees are more expensive.
Brown said the city could not continue to provide inspections and permits at the rates it currently is.
“It’s impossible,” he said.
The board took the proposed fee schedule under advisement and will vote on it at a later date.
In other news from the meeting:
-The board presented resident Dan Bland with a certificate of appreciation and key to the city for his volunteer work at Duncan Park.
Bland has volunteered his time to help manage the park’s golf course.
Coincidentally, Bland appeared before the board prior to the presentation to inform the board that $180,000 is needed for an irrigation system for the holes that are part of the original course.
-The board voted to sell several pieces of surplus property to the highest bidders, whose prices were received at the meeting.
Among the highest bids was $160,000 for the property at 212 Main St. that most recently housed the Magnolia Bluffs Casino office.
-The board accepted the resignation of Natchez Planning Commissioner Linda Futrell from Legaux and voted to advertise for open positions for the commission.
Arceneaux-Mathis told Legaux that she had been informed that at least one of the planning commissioners had moved outside of Natchez and was serving illegally. Legaux said that was correct and said that commissioner could be replaced with applicants the city receives when it advertises for open positions on the commission.
-The board received a single proposal from Mills & Mills Architects of Greenville for architectural services for the renovation of the former railroad depot on Broadway Street. Mills and Mills is the same firm Alcorn State University has hired for the relocation of the Natchez Farmers Market to the bluff, which is part of the depot project.
The board took the proposal under advisement and will decide on it at a later date.
-The board voted to advertise for construction bids for the Bridge of Sighs project.