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Working Cooperatively

Recently, the home building and onsite wastewater industries in conjunction with the regulatory and guidance side of our business had a chance to get it right and all of the parties involved played their roles well. The issue at hand was a proposed increase in fees by Panhandle Health District (PHD) related to their Planning & Zoning Review building location permits. The proposed increase in fees was significant in relationship to what had been charged in recent years. On the face of it, PHD had a tough sell on their hands but their approach in presenting the fees for implementation were both sound and professional.

Dale Peck of the PHD Hayden Idaho office and John Dowling of the PHD Sandpoint Idaho office brought their requests to the industry through two local builder associations, North Idaho Building Contractors Association and the Panhandle Building Contractors Association. In their support of the increases, PHD was able to demonstrate reduced contributions by the State of Idaho over the past four years as well as a desire to cover the costs associated with this particular function of PHD with fee based contributions rather than using general funds to absorb the costs of performing such reviews.

As much as the associations appreciated the supporting documentation for the increases, the stark reality of the increases at a time when the home building industry is struggling through our current economic downturn was received as being burdensome. As a majority of building contractors are surviving by performing many more remodel projects than new home construction, the increase in fees were received as being detrimentally impacting. In essence, the fee increases hit at the heart of the primary revenue generating activity that much of the home building industry has been forced to fall back on.

The answer came in a request by the associations to PHD to implement the fee gradually over a two-year period rather than a one-time, significant increase in July of 2012. PHD’s Board of Directors received the request as carried by Mr. Peck and approved the graduated increase. The outcome was not as much to do with fee increases for our industry members as it was about working cooperatively and finding solutions. As we will not always agree with proposed changes from the regulatory or guidance agencies that affect our businesses, this recent action is representative of how we can at least, have honest and frank discussions on important issues and potentially, find resolution.