During the Jackson County Commission meeting held September 26, Commissioner Jim Peacock expressed concerns over what he felt were excessive fees and permits assessed against a local business that was building a new dealership in his district.
Peacock stated that Miller-Miller is a business that is located in his district and has been in business over 34 years. They are in the process of building a modern, state-of-the art Nissan dealership to be located on highway 90 East.
Peacock had done extensive research into the fees and permits that had been assessed for the construction of the new dealership. Peacock found that the fees were duplicated in some cases and others could not, in his judgment, be justified. One area he pointed out was the cost of water and sewer permits. There was an impact fee for water in the amount of $5,190; for sewer in the amount of $12,456. There was a water connect fee of $1,624 and a $700 security deposit.
On top of these fees, Miller-Miller was assessed $5,896.70 for a community development order; ad fee of $150, engineering fee of $750, and a fire marshal fee of $40.
Miller-Miller Nissan was also assessed $15,388 for a construction permit, $7,694 for a commercial plan review, $2,400 for a fire review for new construction and state surcharge of $461.64.
Prior to going to press, the TIMES learned of an additional fee assessed to Miller-Miller. A six-inch fire protection service line tap cost in the amount of $5,534.55 has been assessed to the business.
The total costs thus far for permits and fees total $58,284.89. There is no guarantee additional fees will not assessed as the project progresses.
Peacock said these assessments were made even though plans were drawn by engineers certified by the state of Florida and hours submitted by county employees to determine the fees assessed did not match up.
Peacock summed up his concerns by saying that he did not think the fees were reasonable. He went on to say that to recruit new industry and business and for existing businesses to expand, the county should do everything it could to provide reasons to come to Jackson County. If the county does not change the way it is presently treating local businesses who are expanding and bringing in new jobs, as well as prospective businesses looking to come to Jackson County, our county will continue to decline.
Peacock says he plans to formally bring the assessments and permits levied against Miller-Miller before the full board to see if the Board is willing to address the fees and permits guidelines to come up with an amount that would be fair to all parties.
The claim made by some county officials is that these fees and permits are comparable to others in the area. This is true they are comparable to fees and permits assessed in Dothan, Panama City, and Tallahassee. However, the problem lies that in these areas, commercial businesses are coming to those particular areas because of the market and other advantages, including population. Jackson County is trying to recruit prospective businesses who would not otherwise considering coming without incentives so the high costs and fees serves as a deterrent to new businesses. This could be a contributing factor as to why Jackson County is one of six counties continually showing a decline in Florida.
Several interviews with local citizens by the TIMES reflects that commissioner Peacock is right about excessive assessments. The general consensus is that the commission should take steps to address concerns like those mentioned above and layout a plan to encourage current businesses looking to expand and new businesses looking for a home.