Las Vegas Sun

September 30, 2014

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ANSWERS: CLARK COUNTY:

Homeowners’ chance to make good on permits

Do-it-yourselfers in unincorporated Clark County are catching a break.

The county has launched a three-month amnesty period for homeowners who did their own remodeling or fix-ups without necessary permits.

Amnesty? Do-it-yourselfers will be forgiven for doing shoddy work?

Not necessarily. They won’t be forgiven for home improvements that pose a danger, officials say. The amnesty entails reductions in fines and fees usually enforced against property owners who failed to obtain required building permits before installing hot tubs, adding rooms, pouring concrete footings, installing water heaters and performing similar work. The homeowners would still need to legalize the work they did by retroactively obtaining the permits.

Why can’t homeowners do that kind of work on their own property without permits?

The same rationale for requiring permits and inspections on huge commercial projects such as CityCenter applies to homes: It’s considered necessary to ensure safety. Permits also help keep county records up to date, ensuring that property owners pay their fair share of taxes. A room addition, for example, usually increases a home’s taxable value.

We’re unlikely to get caught for a lot of this kind of work, though. Why bother?

Renovations done without permits can come back to haunt homeowners when they want to sell their homes. Buyers and banks do inspections, and if those inspectors can’t find all the permits they believe should exist for the property, that usually results in a call for a county inspection, which in turn results in fines on top of the permit fees.

“In today’s economy, if someone is lucky enough to have a good offer for their home and they have an addition without a permit, but they don’t have the money to pay the fees, that can cost them the sale,” Ron Lynn, county director of development services, said.

Are the fines hefty?

They include doubling the hourly rate of an inspector/investigator, so that’s $150 an hour instead of $75 right off the bat. Then the cost of the permit is doubled. For a single-family residence, a plumbing permit fee starts at $16.20. Additional fees are added, such as $10.35 to permit a lawn sprinkler system, or $2.65 to permit either a permanent or non-permanent water softener. (See http://dsnet.co.clark.nv.us/dsweb/ for information.)

So what does the amnesty do?

It gets rid of the penalties, but the homeowner still has to come up with the original, unpaid fee. The amnesty period runs through Aug. 31. During that time, residents can contact the county and request an inspection.

•••

Did commissioners pass the resolution Tuesday to reduce county prosecutors’ cost-of-living pay raises, despite the prosecutors’ threat to sue?

Yes. Unanimously.

Did the prosecutors follow through with their threat?

Yes. The Clark County Prosecutors Association is set to square off against their members’ employer in front of District Judge Abbi Silver on Thursday. The association wants Silver to force the county to withdraw the commissioners’ resolution.

What did the resolution say?

It lowers salary increases for a majority of the county’s 154 prosecutors from 3 percent to 1 percent as of July 1.

Are prosecutors the only unionized group that so far has not voluntarily lowered their scheduled cost-of-living raises from

3 percent to 1 percent?

No. Unions representing county firefighters, fire battalion chiefs, park police and district attorney investigators have so far not offered to reduce salary increases, county administrators said. An agreement has also not been reached with the union of deputy sheriff field officers.

Why isn’t the county cutting all of those raises too, to help fill its $123 million budget hole?

They can’t willy-nilly cut those raises, because they were agreed to through collective bargaining.

How much would the county save if those groups agreed to 1 percent raises instead of 3 percent?

Roughly $2.5 million, with $2.43 million of that coming from salary increases due firefighters.

What about other county employees and pay raises?

So far, service employees for the county and University Medical Center, along with UMC operating engineers, have agreed to a reduced cost-of-living raise of 1 percent. Raises for nonunionized county employees who are not managers are tied to service employees’ raises, so they will also get 1 percent increases. Managers have not received raises since January 2008 and are not expected to get raises in the next fiscal year.

When does the county have to finalize its budget?

The new budget takes effect July 1. But even after that date, the county can make changes where needed.

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