How much should it cost to inspect a septic tank? | The Johnstonian News
The Johnstonian News

How much should it cost to inspect a septic tank?

Posted on May 8, 2022

Updated on May 14, 2022

Local news
County Commissioner Dickie Braswell argues for a higher fee to inspect septic tanks.

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County Commissioner Dickie Braswell argues for a higher fee to inspect septic tanks. | 919-424-1776

SMITHFIELD — Most often, County Commissioners sign off on Health Department fees without debate.

Not this year.

After the Health Department suggested raising the septic tank fee to $475 from $425, Commissioner Dickie Braswell recommended a much higher figure. “In talking to a lot of our builders and developers and homeowners ... I feel like that’s a really low number,” he said.

Braswell said a higher fee could help Johnston recruit and retain septic tank inspectors. “We’ve been running 16 weeks behind (on inspections) from what I understand,” he said. “I know that’s a personnel issue.”

“I would advocate something in the neighborhood of $750,” Braswell said, noting that the builders and developers he had spoken with supported that number.

Steve Strickland, the Health Department’s assistant director, said commissioners had already taken a huge step toward making inspector jobs more attractive. “The salary increase we just saw will go a long way toward helping us reduce that response time,” he said.

Still, Braswell was willing to go higher. “We want to make sure that we make these departments as cost-effective as we can,” he said, referring to the impact on the county budget. “I’ve talked to numerous people regarding that, and there didn’t seem to be any pushback.”

Not from builders and developers, perhaps.

“I think the pushback would come from individual citizens,” Commissioner Ted Godwin said.

Commissioner April Stephens said builders and developers were turning to private inspectors because the county couldn’t perform inspections promptly. “They’re paying additional fees that they were not paying before when the county was able to do everything,” she said.

Strickland said Stephens made a good point. “Because when they pay those private folks to do that work, they still have to pay this fee on top of that,” he said of the county charge.

Braswell acknowledged that. “Some of those guys are paying up to $3,000,” he said.

Commissioners then OK’d the $475 fee the Health Department had suggested.

“I’m always concerned about the cost of housing, and the biggest impact on the cost of housing today is government regulation and government cost,” Commissioner Fred Smith said.

He suggested giving the recent pay increases a chance to succeed in recruiting inspectors. “We need to see if that doesn’t solve the problem without putting more cost on people to buy a home,” he said. “They’re struggling to pay the cost of buying a home today.”

On a separate fee within the Health Department, Commissioner Tony Braswell asked Strickland why the county charges just as much to inspect a food truck as a sit-down restaurant.

“We did bump that up a few years back,” Strickland said of the food truck fee. “Our fee was so low that you could be inspected in Johnston County and work in Wake County or Transylvania County. Our fee was so low they’d all come here to be inspected.”

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