Some city fees go up, others eliminated

Smaller repairs, such as fixing a leaking faucet or toilet, will no longer require an inspection fee by the city codes department under a proposed ordinance approved on first reading Thursday by City Council.

For most people, whenever repairs need to be done the costs include paying for materials, paying a master plumber and the visit by codes, said Joseph Gerardi, codes administrator.

Under the ordinance, the fee for inspecting small repair jobs at home is removed, Gerardi said.

“It makes the policy more reflective of the international building code to benefit homeowners, especially those making small repairs at home,” said Councilman Jonathan Williamson.

The amended ordinance also adds cost to those seeking building permits.

“We are bringing the fees more in line with what surrounding municipalities and some third-class cities are charging,” Gerardi said.

For example, the building permit fees rise from $30 to $34 for projects that will cost under $1,000 and for those $5,000 to $10,000, the fee rose from $120 to $124. The basic minimum fee in Loyalsock Township on the lower end is $50, according to Dave Carson, township building and codes inspector.

For any project more than $10,000, an additional fee of $8 will be charged for each additional $1,000 of cost of construction, Gerardi said. A rental inspection fee of $30 per structure and $5 for each apartment starts July 1, he said.

“There was never a fee assessed to a rental property before unless it failed inspection,” he said.

In summary, he said, the fees increased.

“We tried to make it not the highest, but not the lowest,” Gerardi said. The city hasn’t reviewed or raised fees since 2007, he said.

“This isn’t meant to be solely for generating revenue, but rather to defray costs of providing codes services for issuing building permits and inspecting properties,” he said.

By state law, the department can’t make a profit, Gerardi said. “We can break even, but we’re not supposed to be in the black.”

Since 2008, the department is running about $100,000 to $150,000 below expenses each year,” Gerardi said.

“This will probably bring us up to breaking even each year,” he said.

Examples of change include licensing fees for professionals such as building contractors, plumbers and electricians cost another $20, Gerardi said.

For those seeking land-developments, such as someone who comes in to put up a fence or shed, the applicant will be charged an additional $5.

Other permits such as one for applying for a variance before the zoning hearing board had been $150 and will go to $200. In Loyalsock Township, cost for a zoning hearing is $265, Gerardi said.

Restaurant and food vendor licenses also rose by about $20 on average, he said.

“I don’t think it will make a material difference of whether a project goes ahead or not,” said Councilman Randall J. Allison of the building permit and permit fee increases. “We didn’t increase them excessively, eliminated some, and brought them in line with municipalities and third-class cities,” he said.

Councilwoman Liz Miele at the meeting offered an amendment to the ordinance regarding Dumpsters on a public street or right-of-way.

Some Dumpsters are being left on spaces, including those with parking meters, for months at a time without penalties, Gerardi said.

The proposed ordinance allows one to have a Dumpster for 45 days. If an extension is required, it may remain an additional two days if written notice is provided to the codes department.

However, once the Dumpster has been removed, a new permit will not be issued for a 90-day period. Any request within the 90-day period will be at a rate of $30 per day.

“It’s an incentive to get the Dumpster off the public property and that includes in front of spaces with parking meters,” Gerardi said.

The ordinance goes before council for a second reading March 7.