The new Home Depot store in Tampa, Fla., sold construction permits to its customers during its four-day grand opening in August.

The new Home Depot store here added a special service to its four-day grand opening in August. The city of Tampa sold construction permits to Home Depot customers at a counter positioned within the store. The service was available both to licensed contractors and unlicensed homeowners.

Employees of the city were stationed at the counter from Thursday to Saturday Aug. 19-21 during the four-day grand opening weekend. Permits were sold for nonstructural repair projects that do not require plan reviews and cost less than $1,000. Such jobs include replacing sinks, faucets and water heaters, or changing out condensing units and other minor air- conditioning work, said Nick D'Andrea, city manager of commercial development services.

"After the opening weekend we must determine how successful the program was and then talk about future plans," D'Andrea said. "Perhaps we may sell permits on weekends at the store. We have not worked out a schedule for the future. First we must see if customers liked it. Contractors are always complaining about how hard and annoying it is to get permits, so we'll see if they like this idea."

Most permits of this nature cost $27 to $40. The process of purchasing permits takes about five minutes. The experiment provided a good education for those who didn't know they had to buy permits for small jobs, he said.

The Home Depot has not offered this service in any of its stores in the past, said Don Harrison, Home Depot spokesman.

"This is not a test or pilot program, nor is it being done elsewhere in Home Depot," Harrison told Contractor magazine, Supply House Times' sister publication. "It was simply an agreement worked out with the city of Tampa for the four-day grand opening period to help commemorate the store's opening. That's it."

Six years ago the city of Tampa approached The Home Depot with this idea and said it would be nice for customers to be able to buy a permit in the store, but the city did not have the equipment to do it at that time, D'Andrea said. The city purchased computers, modems and software needed to supply the service, and Home Depot provided the city with phone lines and signage and a place to set up.

In an interview with the St. Petersburg Times newspaper, D'Andrea said if the experiment was successful the city will try to set up a regular weekend schedule and eventually expand the service to other home-repair stores.