Highland News Leader

Highland looks at reducing inspection fees on remodeling projects

It could soon be cheaper for home owners in Highland to enhance their property.

Highland Chief Building and Zoning Official Kevin Limestall has proposed the reduction in the city’s building fee schedule, which the City Council will likely vote on at its next meeting on May 18.

Officials are looking at changing fees to help spur home remodeling within the city.

Limestell outlined his proposed changes in an April 28 memorandum to the City Council and Mayor Joe Michaelis.

Limestall said the Neighbors Helping Neighbors Committee has reviewed the building permit fees that were presented to the City Council in December 2013 and January 2014. This committee has recommended the city leave the fee for new home construction at its current $1,086 rate (not including connection fees).

But for a “simple addition” to a single family residence, the committee recommends reducing the fees to 50 percent of the current rate, and for a simple remodel to a single family residence, reduce the fees to 25 percent of the current rate.

“No matter what rate is charged for electrical or plumbing inspections, the city will still incur the same amount of administrative expenses, thus those rates were not reduced,” Limestall said.

“The certificate of occupancy fee was also left at the current rate as to not complicate the amount when it is rebated.”

Limestall said he considered several options when reviewing how to handle our contracted out inspections (electrical and plumbing). Those options include leaving program and fees as is, pay inspectors a flat hourly rate, pay a flat per inspection rate, contracting out inspections to an adjacent agency or private company, to eliminating the contracted inspectors and have the owner or general contractor performing the work to sign off they have done the work to code.

“(But) taking this last option with no follow up inspections, there is no assurance that the work performed meets the minimal code,” Limestall said.

Last year, Highland issued 200 building permits. But only four of the building permits were for new home construction, Limestall said.

In other business:

▪ First responders will now have direct access to the northern portion of Silver Lake. In the past, access to this portion of the lake could only be made by driving through a private property.

The new access point became available after the City Council voted unanimously Monday to acquire 3.5 acres along Illinois 160 in unincorporated Highland from Margaret Bellm Living Trust for $51,000.

City Councilwoman Peggy Bellm abstained and did not participate in the contract negotiations, because the property had belonged to her mother.

Bellm recently wrote a letter to the city, confirming her family’s intention to sell both properties.

Both tracts are vacant and located adjacent to a 2.2-acre tract that the Bellm family donated to the city in 1961 for the construction of Silver Lake.

The city will now be issuing Bellm a warranty deed for both land purchases.

City Attorney John Long will also issue Bellm a quit claim deed for the other 2.2-acre site to clarify the Bellms’ donation to the city over 50 years ago.

▪ The City Council entered into a preliminary engineering agreement with Oates Associates for the Walnut Street resurfacing project. Highland Public Works Director Joe Gillespie said the Collinsville-based engineering firm was instrumental in securing $412,000 in federal grant money for this $550,000 road project.

▪ The City Council awarded the $171,851 Nagel Drive reconstruction project to Rooters American Maintenance.

“After two previous attempts at soliciting competitive bids, we finally received adequate bids below the engineer’s estimate to complete this job this summer,” Highland Parks and Recreation Director Mark Rosen said. “Although both alternate bids will provide for a satisfactory end product, I have decided that it would be most beneficial to completely remove and replace the existing roadway.”

▪ The City Council appointed Larry Brammer to the Tree Commission.