THE VILLAGE — Less than two weeks after May storms battered parts of the metro area with golf ball- to grapefruit-size hail, officials in a local municipality increased fees for workers coming in to repair the damage.
Local contractors say The Village already had one of the highest building permit fees in the area. On May 28, city council members approved a nearly 40 percent increase in the fee to $150 per roof. "If I come in and raise the price on emergency repairs, it's price gouging,” said Lance Cross, contractor and salesman for All Pro Roofing & Remodeling in Oklahoma City. Cross said the fee increase won't drive work out of the area, but the timing is suspicious. Census numbers show there are about 5,000 homes in The Village. City Manager Bruce Stone said he anticipates nearly all of them had some kind of damage after the May 16 hailstorms. Most will require roof repairs. In some parts of the city, entire blocks are flagged with colorful signs from different roofing companies. Stone said the influx of contractors and repair work to the area required workers at City Hall to open up a new window to accept paperwork and fees. All told, about 110 businesses are approved by the city to work in the area. It's a lot of added work for a limited number of city workers, Stone said. Businesses also are required to pay a $25 fee to register to work in the city. A state law that went into effect in November requires cities, towns and counties that issue residential building permits to get proof that contractors are insured. "This is to protect the public from fly-by-night contractors,” Stone said. He added the city budget is also tight. Insurance premiums for city employees could go up nearly 60 percent this year. Jerry Johns, president of Southwestern Insurance Information Service, a nonprofit information service for insurance companies in Texas and Oklahoma, said municipalities increasing fees in areas recently ravaged by severe weather isn't common.