Fort Smith waives building permit fees for flood damage repair

by Tina Alvey Dale (tdale@talkbusiness.net) 416 views 

The Fort Smith Board of Directors waived all city fees related to the rebuilding of structures affected by May’s historic flooding of the Arkansas River during its regular board meeting Tuesday (July 2).

The unanimously approved resolution waives any fees related to building permits or city building inspections associated with repairs to residential or commercial structures damaged during the 2019 flood. The resolution states that data collected by the city related to specific addresses or structures damaged by the flooding will be used to verify the qualification of the waiver.

Deputy City Administrator Jeff Dingman along with Jimmie Deer, city building official, and Brenda Andrews, director of development services, all agreed to recommend that the city waive building permit fees and inspection fees for projects to repair damage sustained from the recent record flood event, Dingman said in a memo supporting the resolution.

Building permit and inspection fees do provide revenue to the city’s general fund and are used to offset the city’s expenses for such things as personnel, operations and equipment needed to perform building safety inspections during construction or renovation. Waiving the fees will affect the costs to the general fun without offsetting revenues, Dingman said in the memo. Dingman said the cost to the city would be approximately $40,000 for the number of anticipated building permits.

“Regardless, we believe waiving permit fees for repairs is appropriate as one way the City can assist those residents and businesses that are dealing with flood damage repair,” he said.

In the memo, Dingman stressed that while fees would be waived, proper permits and appropriate inspections for all repair work would still be required.

“The city has an accurate list of addresses and structures that were damaged by the flood and building permit applications will be reconciled with that list to verify which structures qualify for this waiver of the permit and inspection fees. Some residents have already obtained and paid for building permits so that they can start their repairs. Any building permit fees or inspection fees paid for repairs to qualifying structures before the recommended waiver of fees is approved by the Board will be refunded,” the memo said.

As of Tuesday, 36 residents have already paid for permits. Dingman said those had been identified and the city would issue them a cash refund.

“This is an excellent idea for our citizens and we are very excited to do this,” said Mayor George McGill.

The board also approved a resolution, 6-0, to waive city building permit and construction inspection fees associated with the renovation of Hunt’s Park. Director André Good, Ward 2, abstained from the vote because he serves on the Fort Smith Boys and Girls Club.

Jerry Glidewell,  executive director of the Boys & Girls Club, and Sam T. Sicard, First National Bank of Fort Smith CEO, announced the donation of $1 million from the bank to go toward the renovation of the park Jan. 17. Hunt’s Park, at 3000 Dodson Ave., opened in 1942 has been a vital part of youth athletics in Fort Smith for 72 years, Glidewell said at the time. The facility, which includes both a football and baseball field, is in need of major renovations.

Renovation plans, expected to cost $2.5 million, include replacing the infield and north and east fences with black chain link; replacing the wooden bleachers at the football field with handicap accessible bleachers; replacing the football press box; adding a concession stand to the bathroom and remodel those facilities; remodeling the baseball concession stand and press box; adding a new roof over the batting cages; adding in-play fabric screen, replacing field lights with LED lights; and installing security cameras and new signage, said Travis Beshears with Beshears Construction, a member of the Boys & Girls Club board of directors. Construction is expected to be completed in January 2020.

The fields are used for Boys & Girls Club football, flag football, soccer, cheer and baseball; community adult football; community adult and youth soccer; American Legion and Babe Ruth League baseball, including state and regional tournaments; Northside High School baseball’s program; and travel baseball tournaments. FSBG is talking with UAFS and Trinity Junior High and other private schools about possible other uses, Glidewell said.

The Boys & Girls Club and its project sponsors asked for the waiver, a memo explaining the resolution said.

“Based on the $2.5 million valuation, the waiver of building permit and associated construction inspection fees would amount to approximately $10,000 waived by the City for this project,” the memo said.

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