Saying it is time to move forward and pull together, Warren County commissioners said this week they will not appeal a recent court decision that went against them in a dispute with the city of Warrenton.
The Missouri Court of Appeals ruled Sept. 18 that the county is subject to the city’s building code and is not exempt from paying various city building permit fees in connection with the construction of its new $6.5-million adminstration building.
Construction of the building, located on Highway 47 and Mockingbird Lane in Warrenton, was briefly delayed after the county initially refused to pay some building permit fees claiming that it was not legally obligated to do so under Missouri law.
City officials disputed the county’s interpretation of the law and maintained the county was in violation of city building codes by not obtaining and paying for the building permits.
Under protest, the county commission eventually paid a total of $27,406 to the city for separate building and stormwater permits. Of that amount, $26,781 was for the building permit. The county commission sued the city asking a judge to resolve the issue.
Warren County Presiding Commissioner Arden Engelage said he was glad the issue is over because it’s time for both the county and the city to move on.
“At this point, we’re going to let it go,” Engelage said. “I think we did as well as we could. I wish the outcome could have been different. It wasn’t a total waste of time because the decision did clarify some issues for all of the counties in Missouri. It would have been better if we had won, but we don’t want to waste taxpayers’ money on a further appeal.”
Northern District Commissioner Dan Hampson said he believes taxpayers will ultimately pay the price because the cost of the permits will trickle down to them since counties have to pay for building permits.
“In my opinion, the taxpayers lost,” he said. “Taxpayers will end up spending more money for permits.”
Engelage said Wednesday he didn’t know the exact cost the county spent litigating the issue because they were still reviewing attorneys’ invoices. He said that a portion of the litigation expense was paid by other entities including the Missouri Association of Counties who had an interest in the final decision.
In February county officials said they had spent $30,635 in legal fees.
“We get along well with the new mayor and while we don’t totally agree with the outcome it’s time to pull together,” Engelage added.
Warrenton Mayor Jerry Dyer said he met with the three county commissioners after he was elected and they agreed informally that both sides in the dispute would abide by whatever decision the court made.
“We are trying to work together,” he explained.
Construction began on the 36,670-square-foot building in early October 2010. Commissioners filed the lawsuit the same month after the city posted a stop work order at the job and issued a summons to an employee of T.S. Banze Construction after he continued performing grading work that same day.
In a 19-page opinion, the appeals court for the Eastern District held that Warrenton, in the exercise of its police powers, could require the county to comply with its building codes to protect the welfare, health and safety of the public.