Grand Jury questions county fee waivers
April 11, 2014
A midterm report by El Dorado County's Civil Grand Jury is questioning the Board of Supervisors refunding or waiving permit fees for some projects but not for others.
The grand jury reviewed a list of waived fees from 2009 through Oct. 3, 2013. Almost all of the fees were waived by the County Administrative Office according to specific county policies, the grand jury states in its midterm report.
Three exceptions included the Board of Supervisors refunding a fee for grading and asbestos dust mitigation on a private road; waiving a fee for construction of a wheelchair ramp after a catastrophic injury suffered by the homeowner's teenage son; and waiving fees for homes damaged or destroyed by the Angora Fire.
"The waivers appear to have been granted without an attempt to reimburse permit fees paid by other owners for grading permits, homes remodeled to accommodate the needs of a family member incapacitated by a catastrophic injury or properties destroyed by a fire other than the 2007 Angora fire," the grand jury states.
"The Board of Supervisors reimbursed permit fees in each of these situations without stating the public purpose that made it appropriate to do so."
Mike Applegarth, principal administrative analyst for El Dorado County, said his agency and the Board of Supervisors will formally respond to the grand jury's midterm report, as required.
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Fees were waived for people rebuilding after the Angora fire, but only if they had paid fees for their homes to be built and were replacing what had been reviewed and permitted, Applegarth said.
"Those homeowners already paid their fees when those homes were built, and we had reviewed those plans. They were simply replacing what had already been reviewed and permitted. If there was any expansion of their existing footprint, then we did collect fees for anything not previously permitted," Applegarth said.
Applegarth said the county did reimburse fees for a grading permit and asbestos dust mitigation for a private road, and that such a decision could be debatable.
"I can see their point, but that road serves 18 parcels. So that's quite a few people affected, and there's a strong argument that does meet the public purpose threshold," he said.
Applegarth agreed the county also waived fees for a homeowner to build a wheelchair ramp. "I hope the grand jury is not suggesting those people shouldn't be able to put ramps on their house before they pay the government anything," he said.
Other subjects the grand jury explored in its midterm report and will receive formal responses on include:
• the Iowa Hill Pumped Water Storage Facility and an El Dorado County and Sacramento Municipal Utility District agreement outlining financial payments to the county;
• the condition of El Dorado County jails in Placerville and South Lake Tahoe, and a finding that both should be evaluated for replacement or refurbishment;
• the condition of El Dorado County juvenile detention facilities in Placerville and South Lake Tahoe;
• the condition of the Growlersburg Conservation Camp, which is operated by California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection;
• and the condition of the artificial football field at Ponderosa High School. The grand jury found the field's condition is a significant safety and liability issue for the El Dorado Union High School District and its taxpayers.
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