Contractors concerned about staffing levels in Collier County office

— Forget impact fees for now.

The numbers have decreased, but the lack of other permits – and permits’ corresponding fees – is what is really causing the cuts in Collier County’s Community Development and Environmental Services division, according to administrator Joe Schmitt.

“Impact fees or the lack of collecting impact fees have nothing to do with the operations or the current budget crisis,” Schmitt said Monday.

Schmitt announced last week that he was shortening the Community Development and Environmental Services division work week to 32 hours, or a four-day work week. It will affect some 111 of 188 employees. It will also affect contractors and developers trying to do business.

“This has nothing to do with impact fee collections; it has to do with fees for permitting services – entirely different,” Schmitt said.

Used primarily for capital improvements, less than 1 percent of impact fees is used to cover administration, Schmitt said.

The building industry is concerned.

Thomas Lykos, president of The Lykos Group, and president of Collier Industry Building Association, explained it this way.

Schmitt has tried to control the direct cost of providing services. However, the Community Development and Environmental Services division, like other government departments, must contribute – through allocations – to the general funds required to run the government, Lykos said.

Bill Spinelli, former Collier Industry Building Association president and president of Titan Custom Homes, said this: “Development services is in large part self funded from the fees it charges for the services it provides.”

The extreme decrease in construction projects has caused a corresponding drop in fees, which are income to Schmitt’s division, Spinelli said.

“Many people are concerned,” Spinelli explained, “that the reduced staffing levels and the possibility of significantly increasing fees are going to have the undesired affect of further slowing construction activity and causing even more layoffs.”

Contractor Bill Varian is chairman of the county’s Development Services Advisory Committee. That group will meet at 3 p.m. today at 2800 N. Horseshoe Drive.

“From a contractor’s view, using my own company as an example, the news is a bit disheartening,” Varian said. “It will definitely affect our way of doing business.”

He’s concerned that inspections, permit applications and review will not be addressed in a timely manner.

“That will ultimately affect our customers, who are taxpayers in Collier County,” said Varian, who is also a past president of CBIA.

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