GLENS FALLS — City officials are considering revamping building codes and increasing fees to accommodate the volume of work handled by the Building and Codes Department.
Fire Chief James Schrammel told members of the Common Council on Tuesday that his department, the Building and Codes office and Mayor Dan Hall have been meeting weekly to help prioritize tasks.
Schrammel said it was a good time to look at the operations because Code Enforcement Officer John Ward retired at the end of February. With Ward out with health issues, the city in January hired Kris Vanderzee as the new code enforcement officer.
The office has been busy. The city closed out on 138 open permits since the start of the year, according to Schrammel. There were 276 permits left over from the end of 2018 and another 47 have been added.
“They’ve done a considerable amount of work in keeping up with their current workload,” he said.
One goal is to scan records so they can be stored digitally, according to Schrammel. He said the office is evaluating whether certain permits are even needed because they are covered by existing state code. The city should do away with those permits, so it can free up limited staff resources on other projects and respond to complaints.
Vanderzee said perhaps a plumbing permit test is no longer needed. The city, he said, should instead add permits for putting in windows and doors, re-roofing, solar panels and installing heating, ventilation and electrical systems.
He said the city is considering changing how much the building permit fee is for commercial projects from being based upon the cost to being based on the square footage of the project.
Contractors were gaming the system in their application when listing the cost, according to Vanderzee.
“They put in $10,000 for a $1 million project and their permit (fee) was minimal,” he said.
Vanderzee proposed permit fees of $250 plus 30 cents per square foot for new commercial and residential construction. There would be 25 cents per square foot for residential and commercial alternations and additions.
Vanderzee did some rough calculations based upon the nearly 50 permits that have been pulled this year and he believed the city would receive an additional $100,000 more under his proposed schedule.
Vanderzee suggested putting a cap on the fee.
Fifth Ward Councilman Jim Clark supported that idea.
“We certainly don’t want to make it cost-prohibitive for somebody to invest in their property or business,” he said.
Vanderzee recommended that the city start implementing some new permits, work to revamp the codes and then introduce the new fees when the codes are cleaned up.
Mayor Dan Hall said the process will take a while.
“It’s going to be good when it’s done,” he said.