Council to consider permit waivers

Published 8:03 pm Friday, June 4, 2010

Selma — The city of Selma has lost more than $7,000 in revenue this year because of unpaid construction permits.

The Selma City Council Administrative Committee is looking at how the city can regenerate a revenue stream by adjusting how it charges for permits.

“We really don’t know how much we have lost because we don’t know total construction costs on some of these projects,” said council president Cecil Williamson.

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For example, the total cost of construction on the Teppers Building has never been submitted to the city’s building inspector’s office.

Building inspector Finis Harris told committee members Friday the Freedom Foundation, which has worked on repairs to the building, never came up with a total cost.

Harris said he was told by Mayor James Perkins in 2005 not to charge the non-profit organization for a permit.

Rehabilitation to the building on Broad Street is incomplete. The organization has applied for a couple of permits, which are good for 90 days.

“They don’t have a current one,” Harris told the committee.

However, the city does not have a notification process to let organizations, businesses or others know when their permits have expired.

“It’s written in the city ordinance 90 days, but there is nothing written to them,” Harris said. “It’s verbal.”

The Freedom Foundation is not the only organization that has yet to pay for a construction permit. ArtsRevive does not have one on record for its construction on the Carneal Building on Water Avenue.

Records at the city’s building inspector’s office do not show a total cost of construction.

The city has always waivered permit fees for church buildings, according to Harris.

Records also indicate several permits were waivered, including the following:

First Baptist Church, 325 Lauderdale St., total cost $1.6 million, permit cost $4,310

Tabernacle Baptist Church, 1431 Broad St., total cost $200,000, permit cost $1,150

Greater Missionary Apostolic Church, 1507 LeGrande St., total cost was not submitted

Elkdale Baptist Church, 221 Elkdale St., total cost $25,000, permit cost $185

Temple Gate SDA Church, 1601 Franklin St., total cost $285,000, permit cost $1,005

Hardy’s Construction, 3000 Water Ave., total cost $80,000, permit cost $430

Morning Star Church, 408 Buckeye Ave., total cost $190,000, permit cost $780.

Council member B.L. Tucker of Ward 6 brought up the issue, saying the city missed out on needed revenue when it waivered the permits. Tucker, a minister, said he would favor churches paying at least 50 percent of the permit fees.

A check with surrounding municipalities shows Montgomery, Prattville, Demopolis and Greeville permit departments all charge permit fees to non-profits and churches as well as private firms.

Council member Corey Bowie of Ward 8 and chair of the administrative committee said he would recommend changes Tuesday at the council meeting.

Bowie said “extreme mitigating circumstances” should be the only reasons for the council to consider waiver of a building permit.

“Even then, it should be on a case-by-case basis,” he said.