Northwest NEWS

November 11, 2002

Editorial

Where's the incentive for efficiency?

(Copy of a letter sent to the King County Council concerning the King County Dept. of Development and Environmental Services (DDES)
   As an audience member said at the Sept. 30th joint Unincorporated Areas Community Councils' meeting in Woodinville, "At $132/hour there's no incentive for efficiency."
   But there is unlimited incentive for increasing personnel and regulations, especially for sensitive areas and their buffers, where fees can be increased by 50%.
   1. For clearing and grading, base charges are divisible by $181.50 an hour, rather than the $132/hour used elsewhere. Why the excess charge?
   2. The "one percent surcharge. . . (to be charged) on the total charges for the permit. . . for code maintenance functions" looks like double billing. I was previously told that the hourly fee covers overhead as well as travel time and on-site time. And don't let's forget the Counter Service Fee, Application Review Fees, etc. etc. The one percent surcharge should be eliminated.
   3. The $33-fee-plus-hourly-charges for single family temporary erosion control and drainage inspections should be paid from our surface water management water runoff fees, which increased on our 2002 real estate taxes bills from $85.02 to $102 in the unincorporated county areas for single family homes. Support fish habitat from other than SWM fees.
   4. Just for travel time it'll take an hour for a permit to cut a hazardous tree, plus the time on-site and plus office time, meaning close to $300 for a hazardous tree cutting permit. And of course doubling the charges for those clearing without a permit is especially significant in view of previous shock registered by one of you at the very thought of even needing a permit to cut a hazardous tree.
   5. Agricultural activities charges go from $55/hour with a $350 cap to an uncapped standard hourly charge (currently $132/hour plus 50% for sensitive areas and their buffers.) The current head of the ag commission had heard nothing of this as of last week. Reduced fees were and incentive for ag production in King County.
   6. Another incentive for the transfer of development rights was removed: the $550 cap on fees.
   7. The payment time for DDES invoices has been reduced from 30 days to 15 days, with an 18% penalty kicking in after 15 days. This is unseemly. The 30 days should remain unchanged. (And the 18% penalty kick-in should be highlighted to catch attention.) (p. 3)
   8. Uniform fire code reviews should be done and paid for by our local fire department taxes, as is already done for cities. King County is double-billing us and duplicating services. (pp. 10-17)
   9. Inconspicuously added is an hourly fee for King County's Department of Transportation. But that is not mentioned on the title page as it should be. This is a Tim Eyman issues - too many subjects. DOT fees should be set separately.
   10. It's misleading to refer to $132/hour in this ordinance, since the 1-1-03 effective date sets the fee at $138.60/hour.
   11. The DDES Copy Charge Schedule Worksheet shows $23.14 an hour for Staff Cost Charges. What exorbitant salaries are being paid to supervisors to justify $138.60/hour on 1-1-03? Especially considering that the public at large also pays a share of DDES costs, since the public at large benefits from DDES and its confiscatory regulations.
   It looks like a way to allow King County to spend the bulk of our taxes on criminals, while charging productive individuals an arm and a leg to support off-budget county departments. It allows Mr. Sims to cut his offices' budget by transferring his personnel to DDES knowing that wages and benefits and overhead are amply provided for.
   Maxine Keesling, Woodinville