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Boy Scouts ask Mauldin for fee waivers

(City Councils Should Not Support Any Organization That Discriminates Unless The City Council Supports Discrimination- Scouting for All)

By L.C. Leach III

Mauldin City Council will consider a request from the Blue Ridge Council Boy Scouts of America to waive the building permit fee for its new 14,500 square-foot headquarters in Mauldin.

The facility, now under construction on Gateway Road near the intersection of Butler Road and Interstate 385, will initially serve more than 22,000 Scouts and adult volunteers in eight Upstate counties. The permitting fees for the new facility total $8,148. Of that amount, $4,500 was collected by the city on behalf of Western Carolina Regional Sewer Authority for the sewer impact fee. The fee is nonrefundable.

The remaining $3,648.50, which goes to the city of Mauldin, had to be paid by the building contractor before construction of the new center could begin.

But Peter Nomikos, the city's building and zoning director, said that amount could be returned to the Boy Scouts at the City Council's discretion.

"They could vote to refund our portion of the fees," he said, but added that he would not recommend it. "Once you start, where do you stop?"

Pat Currie, executive director of the Blue Ridge Council, had sent a letter to Mayor L.S. Green with the request.

"Our architect recommended that we request a waiver of those fees because he had seen other municipalities do it," Currie said. "And anything we can get through donations 'either through the city, individuals or others' would definitely help us."

During an informal session Jan. 6, the council was under the impression that a similar permit fees were waived when the Old 96 Girl Scout Council built its facility in 1986 on East Butler Road.

But Nomikos said city records indicate otherwise.

Original permit fees totaling $811.50 were collected for the construction of the Girl Scout Council Center on East Butler Road.
Subsequent permit fees totaling $1,354 were also collected for a center addition in 1996.

"We didn't waive the fees for the Girl Scouts," Nomikos said.

He added that the city has never before waived or refunded permitting fees for any nonprofit group.

"The only time we don't charge a permit fee is when (new construction falls under) a different governmental entity," he said. "But in this case, we'll do whatever council wants us to do."

Councilwoman Cindy Jordan and councilman Don Godbey said that while they favor city support of the Scouts, they do not think it would be a good idea for Mauldin to make a practice of waiving fees for nonprofit groups.

"If we were to waive the building fee for every nonprofit group, that would be less revenue coming into the city and things that need doing in the city would ultimately suffer," Jordan said.

Godbey added that while the Boy Scouts permitting fees was not a make-or-break item for the city, it would have a hard time in the future on knowing where to draw the line.

"I'm supportive of the Boy Scouts as an organization, but I would hate to set that precedent," Godbey said. "Instead, I think there are some other creative ways that the city can support them."

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