The Hillsboro City Council approved at its Dec. 4 meeting the ordinance adopting the current edition of building codes for the city, and clarified its policy regarding contractors needing to own the appropriate code manuals.
The council unanimously approved Ordinance 1224 adopting the 2012 International Building Code—which, by reference, includes codes for residential buildings, energy conservation, property maintenance, mechanical, plumbing and fuel gas—and the 2011 National Electric Code.
The city previously had been operating on the 2006 Uniform Building Code. The change was made primarily because insurance companies would be charging rates in cities using an outdated edition of the codes.
The council clarified its position regarding whether contractors would be required to show evidence of owning the code books that apply to their particular areas of professional service.
The books range in cost from around $65 to $170.
City Manager Larry Paine said initially the city was going to require the books to be purchased, as the Free Press had reported in its Nov. 28 edition, but backed off of that position later in the discussion.
Instead, the council had agreed not to require all contractors to purchase the books, but to offer a financial incentive to buy them by waiving the city’s annual licensing fee of $50 for those who do.
Contractors who do not purchase the books will be required to pay the full licensing fee.
Paine said the council changed its approach in consideration of the one-person contractor, perhaps working only part-time, who still provides important services to residents and might be forced out of business by the additional expense.
In response to questions from contractors who understood they would be required to buy the books, Kathrine DeFillipis, manager of The Lumberyard in Hillsboro, came to the meeting to offer an alternative: The business would be willing to purchase a set of the code books as a resource for contractors, then make photocopies of particular sections of the code upon request.
She said The Lumberyard supplies materials for many contractors working locally, and is open for business roughly the same hours contractors are on the job.
Paine affirmed the idea of the business purchasing a set of code books as a resource for contractors, but cautioned DeFillipis about the potential legal consequences of distributing photocopies of copyrighted materials.
The council tabled until the next meeting a recommendation to adopt a new fee schedule for building permits because council members did not have a complete copy of the necessary ordinance before them.
Review of the city’s fees grew out of the discussion about building codes. Paine characterized the city’s current fee schedule as “incredibly low.”
The following fee schedule is being recommended, based on the valuation of the proposed project:
• $1 to $500: $12 for the first $500 plus $1.50 for each additional $100 or fraction thereof;
• $501 to $2,000: $12 for the first $500 plus $1.50 for each additional $100 or fraction thereof;
• $2,001 to $25,000: $34.50 for the first $2,000 plus $7 for each additional $1,000 or fraction thereof;
• $25,000 to $50,000: $196 for the first $25,000 plus $5 for each additional $1,000 or fraction thereof;
• $50,001 to $100,000: $12 for the first $500 plus $4 for each additional $1,000 or fraction thereof;
• $100,001 to $500,000: $12 for the first $500 plus $3 for each additional $1,000 or fraction thereof;
• $500,001 to $1 million: $12 for the first $500 plus $2.50 for each additional $1,000 or fraction thereof;
• Above $1 million: $12 for the first $50,000 plus $1.80 for each additional $1,000 or fraction thereof.
The building-permit fees are used primarily to offset the cost of the work done by the city’s code inspector.
Ben Steketee, who currently fills that role, said the rate of the fee decreases as the valuation of a project increases because large projects have architects involved, which actually reduces his labor at the time of inspection.
In addition to new construction, the fee schedule will apply to “the alteration and moving of buildings and structures.”
The council expressed surprise to learn that to this point the city has not been reimbursed beyond the permit fee for expenses that arise when someone moves a building, such as the involvement of police to monitor traffic and utility companies to move power lines.
Action on the new fee schedule is projected for the council’s Dec. 18 meeting.
The council unanimously approved Ordinance 1223 granting an electric utility franchise for the Hillsboro Industrial Park to Westar Energy for 10 years and with a 5 percent franchise fee.
Paine said for the past two years the city had explored the possibility of annexing the Westar utility into the city’s distribution system. But following a cost analysis of annexation by Kansas Power Pool staff, he had concluded, “With the rates currently in place in the industrial park and comparing them to ours, we could not justify the acquisition without increasing rates substantially for all customers.”
The industrial park has never been part of the city’s system, Paine said, because when the park was created the city did not have generation capacity to serve the area.
The terms of Westar’s existing franchise were that they had exclusive rights to serve the area for 20 years and would pay a utility franchise fee of 3 percent, Paine reported.
“I asked the (city) manager’s ListServ what other communities had in their franchise agreements,” he said. “By far the most common was a 10-year term and a 5 percent franchise fee”
Paine said the increase in the franchise fee would be in line with the fee the city charges itself in the electric utility.
The council approved Resolution 2012-5 to change its membership in a utility-mutual aid program to the Kansas Mutual Aid Program operated by McPherson-based Kansas Municipal Utilities.
“The purpose of the mutual aid program is that if there were a disaster that hit Hillsboro, we could call upon other communities to assist with the recovery,” Paine said.
A city that is not part of a utility mutual-aid program is not eligible to receive disaster funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, he added.
Prior to the council’s decision, Hillsboro had been aligned with a similar program offered by the Kansas Municipal Energy Agency. Paine said KMEA will be terminating its program because the organization had concluded the KMU program was a better option for cities.
In other business, the council:
• agreed to change the date of a public hearing regarding proposed amendments to the 2012 budget from Dec. 18 to a special meeting at 4 p.m. Dec. 26.
The routine procedure addresses increases to the operating budget in order to account for additional expenditures that were unforeseen at the time the budget was formed. The tax levy will not be affected by the changes.
• heard from Paine that city employees recently were screened to check for indicators of high cholesterol, diabetes and related health issues. He said the group “produced good numbers.”
The cost of the screenings is reimbursed by the city’s health insurance program.
Paine added that several staff members are participating in a “10,000 Steps” program with a goal of walking that many steps each day for better health.
“If we can do things to improve physical fitness, we can get better (insurance) rates overall,” Paine said.