Posted 12/18/13 (Wed)
By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer
In 2011 oil activity was on the rise in McKenzie County. And in turn, the city of Watford City felt increasing pressure from many different directions. One of the strains put on the city was a rise in people and businesses looking to build and develop. In response, the city hired Steve Williams to be their building inspector.
In 2012, the city found the desire and need to build was not going away, but rather was increasing. Therefore, they adopted a portion of the state recommended building permit fee schedule to help offset the cost incurred by the additional workload. As of Dec. 2, 2013, that new fee schedule was updated again, due to a continued escalation in building and the increasing costs that have arisen as a result.
“The bigger the project, the more there is to look at,” states Williams. “Both in-house and out in the field.”
But the increased work encompasses more than just inspections. As development continues, Williams states that the amount of paperwork has also increased, along with the amount of work associated with planning and inspecting.
Since accepting the position as the city’s Building Inspector in 2011, Williams states that three additional employees have been added to the Building and Planning Department to help manage the increased workload created by the influx of building and developing that is taking place in Watford City.
The increased workload and the hiring of additional staff caused the city to take another look at its building permit fee schedule.
Williams states that the new building permit fee schedule will not change for projects under $100,000. The new difference will be seen with projects over $100,000 and upward of $1 million.
“All fees are based on the cost of the project,” states Williams. “That is because bigger, more expensive projects have more in them and more to look at.”
As part of the city’s new building permit fee schedule, projects costing over $100,000 to $500,000 will carry a base cost of $1,015 for the first $100,000, and an additional $6.50 for each additional $1,000 up to and including $500,000.
Projects costing over $1million to build will carry a base cost of $6,365 for the first $1 million, and an additional $4 for each additional $1,000.
In addition, Williams states that two other fees were updated. The re-inspection fee was raised from $47 to $100 per inspection, and the fee for inspections that take place outside of normal business hours was raised to $100 per inspection.
The city also added two new fees into its updated fee schedule - a fee for sprinkler and fire alarm inspections and a fee to pressure test new gas lines prior to a MDU hookup.
“These two inspections take up quite a bit of time,” states Williams. “There are several things involved with the inspections and a lot has to be coordinated to get them done properly.”
Williams states that the inspection of a sprinkler or fire alarm system requires coordination efforts between several different subcontractors, as well as the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Department. And that is with each inspection.
“I had to perform an inspection on a sprinkler and fire alarm system four times for one of the apartment complexes that was being developed before it would pass,” states Williams.
Williams states that the city did not want to penalize the average home owner who was remodeling their home or performing a smaller building project. Their goal in revamping the building permit fee schedule was to cover the cost of the workload that is created by bigger development projects.
“Our new fee schedule is still in line with the inspection fees for Bismarck and Minot,” states Williams. “And they are not out of line based on the amount of projects being developed and the amount of inspections being performed.”
According to Williams, in 2012, $82 million in projects were completed and 277 permits were issued. And 2013’s numbers were very similar, with 273 permits issued and $68 million in projects completed. This does not include the Wolf Run project, as the city decided not to charge construction fees for the project, because it was a project that benefitted the community.
The revised edition of the city’s building permit fee schedule was approved at the Dec. 2 City Council Meeting and was put into effect at that time.