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City making progress in effort to become more business friendly

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Several city officials believe work of a new Business Development committee appointed by Mayor Jamie Doss has made great strides in making the city more business friendly. “I think we have accomplished a lot in a very short period of time,” Doss said Friday at the conclusion of a committee meeting.

Much of the discussion Friday was focused on Commissioner Bill Irmscher’s desire to simplify the permitting fee structures and process. Citing a similar process in Athens and Clarke County, Irmscher suggested a single fee destination for developers.

“Are you advocating paying all fees up front?” asked Building Inspection Chief Howard Gibson.

“That’s what Athens does,” responded Irmscher.

Rome Public Services Director Kirk Milam said the idea of an a la carte or pay as you go system gives business owners the greatest flexibility, which he said was probably in the best interest of owners.

City Manager Sammy Rich said he has not heard complaints about the timing that developers buy permits. Assistant manager Patrick Eidson said city staff is working on a new developers guide to help walk entrepreneurs through the process. Gibson said his office publishes and posts a complete fee schedule so that developers will at least know what to expect as they go through the process.

Milam also said having a single pay destination point — rather than having to pay at the city clerk’s office, or building inspection, or water billing — was not something out of the question, but details regarding the distribution of the funds to the appropriate departments and accounting details would probably take some time to work out.

The committee also discussed the time it can take for permits to be reviewed and authorized. “If they bring me a complete application and a complete set of plans, I’ll turn it around in seven days or less every time,” Gibson said. Commissioner Craig McDaniel said was generally not a problem for large developers but someone starting a small business, “doesn’t know what they don’t know.”

The city has appointed senior planner Bryan King to serve as a liaison between the city and prospective developers to walk them through the permitting process.