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Thursday, March 11, 2010 - 1:49pm

Longer Waits For Permits In Savannah

After years of budget cutting, Chatham County may have to turn fire inspection duties back over to the state.

Chatham County has handled its own fire inspections for over a decade under an agreement with the state Fire Commissioner.

Savannah-area businesses benefitted by getting their buildings certified and open more quickly.

Now, after years of lay-offs in a business downturn, County Manager Russ Abolt says, he can no longer recommend the county continue its own inspection office even though it will be less convenient.

"In the near term, what that's going to mean is there'll be a longer queue, a longer waiting time for those state personnel to arrive in Chatham County to do the necessary inspections," Abolt says. "But that is a function of the economic times right now."

The local inspections are funded through building permits, which have fallen off.

Recently, taxpayers have had to subsidize the local inspections.

Abolt hoped the market would turn around. But it hasn't.

"It's getting pretty bare and we have to take steps to deal with the absence of property tax and our ability to subsidize at a level that's artificially higher than the actual workload," Abolt says.

Businesses generally need inspections when they first open and then once a year thereafter.

County Commissioners could vote to end the local agreement with the state on Friday.

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