Contractors working on Frederick County projects will have to pay less up front to have their construction projects inspected, but anyone caught tampering with a water meter will have to pay a bigger fine, under a new county ordinance.
The Frederick County Board of Commissioners voted on Feb. 21 to approve an ordinance to change the fee schedule used to determine review and construction-related costs for projects built under contract with the county and inspected by the government staff.
The 4-0 vote reduces the initial deposit developers or contractors pay to have inspectors present while working on a project from $574 per calendar day to $450 per work day.
Commissioner Kirby Delauter (R) wasn’t present for the vote.
In a period of 30 calendar days, the change leads to a 43 percent overall decrease in the initial deposit, according to a county memorandum.
The change, scheduled to become effective March 1, doesn’t affect how much the county charges for the inspections, it merely lowers the amount that must be paid up front, Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young (R) said.
The construction industry was hit hard by the recession, and anything that could help stimulate building activity will be helpful, said Denise Jacoby, executive officer of the Frederick County Building Industry Association.
Jacoby said the association appreciates the county’s efforts to take business-friendly actions that will help get people back to work.
“All of these measures ... will help in the long run,” she said.
Developers pay an initial deposit for the inspectors, but are only charged for the actual hours that they spend on the job, with the balance refunded at the end of a project.
How often the inspectors are present depends on the type of job being done, said Brenda Teach, of the county Office of Accounting and Finance Support.
Any costs greater than the deposit are charged to the developer by an invoice, said Rod Winebrenner, head of the county Department of Engineering and Planning.
Reducing the deposits may result in more invoices being sent out, potentially leading to a lag in revenue if contractors are late paying the invoices, Winebrenner said.
But the move is not expected to lead to any decrease in revenue from inspection fees, Winebrenner said.
It’s not expected to have an effect on the county’s budget, Teach said.
The ordinance also increased the penalties for tampering with a water meter or equipment.
Tampering is usually limited to removing the meter’s vault lid and installing a device to allow service to continue unmonitored, according to a county memorandum.
It’s hard to quantify how much money the county has lost due to meter tampering, since that water can’t be counted, Teach said.
The fine for tampering with a meter increases from $50 to $100 for a first offense, $100 to $300 for a second offense and $500 for subsequent offenses.
A third offense used to result in prosecution, but county officials met with the Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office and determined that the difficulty in proving precisely when tampering took place and who did it often made prosecution impractical, the memo said.
Since the tampering fees were established in May 2010, the county has processed several first and second offenses, and one third offense.
In that instance, a man in the Frederick area used duct tape and a section of pipe to resume his service after it had been stopped, Teach said.
Under the new ordinance, the county could prosecute for any offense.
As part of their business-friendly agenda, the commissioners are also scheduled to vote today on the repeal of an ordinance requiring businesses and owners of security alarms to pay fees designed to help eliminate false alarms.