John Hartley, owner of Hartley’s Climate Control, St. James, told the Rolla City Council Monday night that city requirements for building permits and inspections make it difficult to operate a 24/7 heating and cooling business.
Speaking to the council in the public comment period near the end of the meeting, Hartley described scenarios in which he needs to replace an air conditioner or a water heater for a customer’s convenience after hours.
Obtaining a permit is impossible at that time, so he goes ahead and does the work and pays the fine for doing it without a permit. The fine is equal to the cost of the permit, around $40 for a water heater replacement.
“We’ve paid a lot of penalties over the last three months,” Hartley said.
Moreover, he told the council, during the day, obtaining a permit is so time-consuming that it isn’t cost-effective. Hartley said it takes 35-40 minutes to obtain a building permit, which is required to be done in person and paid for with cash or check.
“I do 35-40 jobs in Rolla a day,” he said. Being tied up at city hall with paperwork is not cost-effective. “It’s cheaper to pay the fines,” he said.
Hartley said the city’s chief inspector, Steve Flowers, told him that if he received one more permit fine, his license to do business in Rolla would be turned over to the city council for review.
“I can’t afford to do business in Rolla,” Hartley said.
Mayor Bill Jenks stopped Hartley at the three-minute limit and thanked him for bringing the issue to the attention of the council. That might have been the end of it, but the council was stirred up by the businessman’s plight.
Councilman Tony Bahr demanded that time be given to discuss this problem at the Monday night workshop.
Councilman Jimmy Dale Williams said, “That’s why people don’t want to do business in Rolla.”
Councilman Steven Leonard said he pays bills online or by faxing checks to businesses and asked why that kind of modern-day technological system couldn’t be used for contractors doing business in the city.
City Administrator John Butz said the city’s building permit software is antiquated and replacing it would take at least $20,000.
After all that talking, no action was taken.
In council and administration comments, the following information was shared:
• Councilwoman Fran Mazanec noted the recent employees appreciation luncheon was a great deal of fun and those council members who missed it, missed a great time.
Page 2 of 2 - • Councilman Bahr asked Butz about the availability of state and federal grant money for public works project. Butz said, “None of it is reimbursable until contracts are in order.”
• Councilman Lou Magdits asked about a fundraiser planned for the animal shelter. Butz noted public involvement is appreciated, but the city cannot legally be involved in any fundraising efforts.
• A council workshop will be held at 5 p.m. Monday at The Centre. The main topic of discussion will be how The Centre’s operation will be financed after the recreation sales tax sunsets on Dec. 31. The workshop is open to the public.
• Ballfield dedications will begin at 5:30 p.m. Friday. Playing fields have been renamed for former Mayor Joe Morgan and city supporter Kittie Robertson, both of whom are deceased, and former Parks Department Director Ken Kwantes, who retired last year. The dedications are open to the public.