A proposed increase to the city’s building permit fee schedule was voted down by the committee of the whole Tuesday evening.

The fee increase was believed to be capable of producing the funds necessary to support the entire Building and Neighborhood Services department.

Councilman at large John Rowland said he didn’t believe the fee increases would help promote building projects in the area, and are unnecessary as the City Council is expected to pass a balanced budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

“I just think we need to be a little more creative if we’re trying to promote residential growth in the community,” he said.

The proposed fee structure, which would have established a flat rate for several different kinds of residential and commercial building projects that would have been further supplemented by inspection fees, was excessive in Rowland’s eyes. He and other committee of the whole members had just listened to a presentation regarding potential wastewater fee rates that call for increases approaching 27 percent per month.

“I’m still kind of in shock from looking at the sewer rates,” he said.

BNS Official Mike Harmon said that since the proposed rates would have covered additional inspections, like those needed for electrical work, they would actually be lower than rates paid by residents in neighboring communities. Harmon said that every charge would be fully explained to the customer, and would be a fair way to keep his department self-sufficient, which he said has been a goal of the City Council.

“I’m pretty confident that these fees will raise enough money to fund our department,” Harmon said.

Councilwoman at large Jennifer Graf agreed with Harmon. She said that the original building permit fee, established in 2008, was too severe at 1 percent of the total cost of the project. Conversely, the current fee structure produces too little revenue, she said. Harmon’s proposal would be a good fit, Graf said.

“It’s almost like the three bears,” she said. “Not too hard, not too soft, this is the right one.”

The fee increase proposal was defeated by a 4-3 vote, with Rowland, Second Ward Councilwoman Julie Allesee, Fourth Ward Councilman Paul Gassman and First Ward Councilwoman Maggie Klaes opposing.

In other action, the committee:

• Agreed to a proposal from the Traffic Study Commission to remove a stoplight at the intersection of Second Avenue South and South Fifth Street.

City Engineer Jason Craft said that a four-way stop sign would be the best fit for the intersection. City staff spent several weeks compiling traffic statistics and observing vehicle patterns at the intersection before coming to this conclusion.

“Over half of the (accidents) were due to the traffic signal being there,” Craft said, adding “Common sense tells us that a four-way stop would be more efficient.”

Third Ward Councilwoman Bev Hermann said she “pitched a fit” when the engineering department proposed removing a stoplight at the intersection of Fifth Avenue South and South Fifth Street, but she said she has since seen how much traffic flow has improved in the area.

Graf asked if schools in the area had been notified of the proposal. Craft said they had not, but would be in advance of the next meeting of the City Council, in which the resolution will officially be considered.

Follow Ben Jacobson on Twitter @BJacobsonHerald.

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