Kosciusko County presently charges no fees to obtain a standard improvement location permit when building residentially or commercially. It will cost a contractor to start building without a permit, but that is after the fact.
But that could change in the coming months. During its regular monthly meeting Oct. 1 in Warsaw, the Kosciusko County Area Planning Commission discussed the pros and cons of permit fees for more than an hour. A few months ago APC member James Moyer, also a member of the county council, proposed the idea of charging fees for building permits in order to help the county’s budget and “increase the flow of money into this building (courthouse).”
The discussion about permit fees was not a public hearing because it was not advertised as such and the APC will require more information before any vote is taken. Before any decision is arrived at, though, one issue that must be resolved is whether or not the permit fees would go into the general fund or could be specifically designated for a building inspector or something else. Moyer said he believes the state board of accounts would dictate where the money must go, but he noted he is not sure and would have to research it more.
Also, some feel the county needs to hire a building inspector to protect those having homes built. Joni Truex, executive officer of the Builders Association Kosciusko and Fulton Counties, said residents not living within Warsaw, Winona Lake or Syracuse have no protection because there is no inspection process. “Anybody can get a sign and put it on their truck and say they are builder, as long as they have a permit for the sign,” she said.
Larry Coplen of the APC, himself a building contractor, said he would welcome a building inspector “to keep everyone honest.”
Truex noted the BAKFC board recently voted not to support any permit fees to go into the general fund because it would become too open ended and there would be no control over what could happen to the fees later. And having permit fees go into the general fund “would do nothing for the residents or potential residents of Kosciusko County.” She added a wheel tax is already in place in the county, but building permit fees apply to a specific industry and should help builders in some way.
Lee Harman, chairman of the APC, asked if there is any way to track problems with builders and was told for the most part, there isn’t. Some banks and lending agencies require inspections, but not all do.
Chuck Haffner of the APC requested to know how much it costs Warsaw to have building inspectors and how cost effective the inspectors are. Truex will gather the information and present it at a future APC meeting. It was also noted by contractor Brett Harter if the county could provide something such as online permitting, it would save a lot of time and money because fewer trips would need to be made to the courthouse.
In other business, the APC unanimously recommended approval for Terry and Margaret Likens to have .38 of an acre rezoned from agricultural to residential on the south side of Backwater Road, east of SR 13 and south of North Webster in Tippecanoe Township. Neil Likens, a son of Terry and Margaret, said the family wants to keep the land but his parents don’t want to take care of it all themselves so he is wanting a house built on the acreage.
County commissioners will consider the petition at their Oct. 21 meeting.