In what one board member joked were the most “bipartisan” votes in the last four years, a divided Grundy County Board Tuesday approved the county’s Land Use Department taking over plan review and inspections for the village of Diamond.
In both authorizing an intergovernmental agreement and in approving the actual terms of the agreement, the board voted 11-5 in favor of the plan, with a mixed group of Republicans and Democrats voting their opposition to the proposal. The opposition came because of both the added workload on the county department and what some perceived to be low fees for the service.
Land Use Director Heidi Miller explained that Diamond had approached the county about providing assistance with building inspections and plan review evaluations. The request, a resolution authorizing an agreement noted, was “based on the amount of growth and staffing currently experienced in the village of Diamond.”
Some board members worried the three-year agreement might, in turn, place undue burden on the staff of the county’s Land Use Office, if not now, then in the future when building in the county sees a resurgence.
Miller acknowledged the potential for an overload in the future and indicated that, if that ever became the case, she would return to committee and ask for the pact with Diamond to be broken since she realizes her first responsibility is to Grundy County. For now, she said, Diamond’s project would not be too much to handle.
“There is enough now, including Diamond, to keep [building inspector] Ron [Ragan] and I busy,” Miller said, indicating that if another community made a similar request it would likely have to be denied without additional staffing becoming available.
“I still feel if you do it for one, you have to open it up to other communities,” said Harold Vota, who was one of the board Republicans to vote against both the resolution and the agreement. Also voting against them were Democrats Ann Gill and Frank Halpin, as well as Republicans David Welter and Dave Boggs.
Some of those dissenters felt the fees included in the agreement were too low. The pact calls for the county to receive $40 for single family home reviews, $100 for commercial and industrial building reviews, and $20 per inspection.
“By the time somebody gets out there and back, that’s $20 gone,” said John Galloway, who was advocating for higher fees.
He was assured by Miller that doing inspections for Diamond would not actually cause Ragan, who is paid $21 an hour for inspections, to expend any more gas or mileage because he is already traveling throughout the county – including into Goose Lake Township – to conduct inspections on the county’s behalf.
John Roth, in addressing concerns the review fees were lower than what the county charges for its own projects, noted the lower fees are probably a sign of things to come, as the county’s own fee structure is currently under review.
“In reality, our fees compared to other counties’ are very high and they need to be lowered,” Miller said.