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Eldridge vetoes commission’s vote to hire building inspector

Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge has vetoed the resolution commissioners passed during their March meeting to create the position of a county building inspector.
“We’re getting the cart before the horse in passing a resolution to spend a lot of money without a plan to fund it,” Eldridge told Budget Committee members during their April 12 meeting. “The more I thought about it, the more concerned I became.”
Eldridge said many commissioners also have expressed concern that the proposed fees for building inspections are too high.
The fee schedule, which has yet to be voted on, is based on the amounts currently charged by the state. Remaining at that level, according to Washington County Zoning Administrator Mike Rutherford, ensures the county building inspector’s office would be self-funded.
But that did not alleviate Eldridge’s concerns.
“It created a lot of uncertainty in my mind so I vetoed until we have a funding mechanism in place,” he said.
In hearing from Eldridge about the veto, Commissioner Joe Grandy said he did not want to do anything that would impede construction in Washington County.
“We’re nowhere near the point of needing a full-time building inspector,” Eldridge said.
Commissioner Pete Speropulos, chair of the Zoning Administration Oversight Committee, said he has received no comments about the fees.
“I’ve heard comments on ‘let’s get it done,’” he said.
Commissioner David Shanks suggested charging lower fees to aid economic development in the county.
During last month’s meeting, Eldridge encouraged commissioners to vote on the fee schedule first to establish the funding mechanism for the county to hire its own building inspector, but no action was taken on that resolution.
Though commissioners did pass the resolution creating the position, they disagreed on whether the county inspector should be a full-time staff member or a subcontractor.
The approval allowed the Zoning Administrator’s Office to move ahead on purchasing a vehicle and software in preparation for the final decision, but the veto put a halt on those purchases.
“Let’s contract until that person is spending 100 percent of his time on inspections and then bring on as a full-time employee,” Commissioner Mitch Meredith offered as a compromise during the Budget Committee meeting.
Speropulos said the fees could always be reduced once the program is up and running.