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Codes issues create controversy
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There’s no hotter topic on commissioners’ minds than construction permit fees, especially after Monday night’s Warren County Commission meeting.
For several months, the Policy and Personnel Committee has debated fees, codes, and even whether the Codes Department itself is needed. Sailing didn’t get any smoother after a resolution was presented Monday night.
Policy and Personnel had previously approved keeping the same fee schedule that has been in effect since September 2010, citing safety concerns if new construction projects and additions are not inspected. The committee also voted to upgrade to a newer version of the state codes as recommended by Building and Codes Department director Nolan Ming.
Policy and Personnel chairman Ken Martin presented the resolution for approval to the commission, only to encounter opposition from Carolyn Miller, Michael Shane Wilcher, and Terry Bell. Bell has been a vocal opponent of the fee schedule.
Said Miller, “I cannot support the adoption of a fee schedule. I cannot vote to charge a fee to the citizens of Warren County to make an improvement or building a building that as soon as it is completed we begin to collect property taxes from it. I think we more than recover any fee when we receive the property taxes. I will have to cast a no vote.”
Wilcher said, “I will be voting no tonight because I’m looking at the very smallest $100 permit for the 30-square-foot stoop. I believe it will pass but I just believe that fee schedule, the initial start in, could have been worked on a little more.”
Bell, who had argued against charging permit fees at a meeting of the Policy and Personnel Committee, questioned Ming on several points from the Tennessee Building Codes, including the inspection of water heaters that caused so much excitement earlier this year.
Ming pointed out the water heater issue had been voted against in a committee meeting, saying, “Back, in March I think it was, we voted to not enforce permits for water heaters.”
Bell replied, “It’s not come before this County Commission and the committee does not have the power to do that.”
Bell then made a motion to amend the resolution to “only apply these codes to new dwelling residential construction and new commercial construction. Which is what the state does. And remove the deck and the pool charges.”
The motion to amend passed with a vote of 16-7, with Carlene Brown, Wayne Copeland, Ken Martin, Charles Morgan, David Rhea, Tommy Savage, and Melissa Yancy casting no votes.
 The resolution itself passed 15-8, with the same commissioners, plus Carolyn Miller, voting against it. Ultimately Wilcher voted in favor of the resolution after the amendment.
Twenty-three of the 24 commissioners were present. Gary Prater was unable to attend.