County reviewing costs for providing inspection services
Carbon municipalities may see increases in the cost for building inspection services performed by the county's planning and zoning office.
In a commission meeting on April 5, planning director Dave Levanger indicated that cities which use the service have been doing so at a much lower cost than what the county spends on providing he services.
The county currently provides building inspection services to Scofield, Helper, Wellington and Sunnyside.
With the exception of Helper, each of those cities is paying $1,100 annually for the service. Helper's services are given in exchange for fire and rescue services.
East Carbon is expected to join the other cities in using the county's inspection services.
East Carbon recently lost the city's building inspector and is likely going to be unable to find a replacement.
"We've been doing building inspections for municipalities in Carbon County off and on since about 1990," Levanger told commissioners. "We've done that through inter-local agreements."
Levanger pointed out that the inter-local agreements relating to the service with Scofield, Sunnyside and Wellington have all expired. Helper's agreement appears to be a perpetually renewing agreement, said Levanger.
As property owners apply for building permits, each has to pay a fee. The county collects the fee and keeps track of how much is collected for buildings within each city.
"Your inter-local agreement says that if we do not collect revenue of $1,100 per year per city that they must pay us the difference," noted Levanger.
The difference between the amount collected and the amount in the contract is collected from the city at the end of every year.
If the city generates more than $1,100 in a year, the county keeps the full amount and the city pays nothing.
However, even after the full $1,100 is collected, cities are receiving many services at the expense of the rest of the county.
"[The agreements] are for an amount of money that makes me believe that the taxpayers in Carbon County are subsidizing this service to the cities," said Levanger.
The exchange between Helper and the county is likely more of an equitable agreement, though he said he did not know what the value of the fire service was, added the planning director.
When Carbon residents consider that Price and East Carbon have fully subsidized the inspection services within the cities, it appears that other municipalities in the county are receiving a service at a cost that is out of line compared to what is fair.
To calculate the value of the service, Levanger took the total budget of the county inspection office and calculated an hourly cost of $87 to operate the department. That includes all operational costs fro the building inspection department, including supplies, labor, transportation and other costs excluding the cost of the building.
Levanger then estimated the average cost of an inspection. He explained that the county makes efforts to schedule inspections in the same area at the same time. In so doing, inspections in Scofield are performed at the same time. This avoids unnecessary travel, and county officials can limit travel time.
The county planning director figured the average number of inspections required for each building permit issued and established a cost for each building permit. Using historic numbers, Levanger estimated the number of permits issued in each city.
The end result is an estimated cost for the services that each city is receiving. Using Levanger's formulas, cities would be billed a much larger amount.
However, billing municipalities more for the service creates certain problems. The county planning director said that Scofield has been the site of much of the planning office's work. He said that he expects to see that trend continue. The town is also the most remote town in the county. As a result, transportation costs are higher when the county does work there.
However, Scofield is also the smallest municipality in the county and billing the town a higher amount may have a larger impact than in Sunnyside, with roughly 10 times the population.
Commissioner Michael Milovich noted that making a change all at once may not be a workable solution. He empathized with the need for the cities and towns to maintain a tight budget. However, he noted that the rates are not equitable.
The commission voted to table the matter. Before a decision is made, the commission will meet with the mayors of each of the affected municipalities to determine a workable plan that will better reflect the cost of the services performed by the county.