Council Votes to Adjust Fees for City Services

Penman Calls Updates Necessary to Reflect Current Costs

A city ordinance passed at the August 18 council meeting will raise fees for some city services in an effort to recover costs, the city reports.

Some established fees and some new user fees had not been updated to reflect current costs, said City Manager Don Penman.

The increased fees apply to permits and applications, library fines, and parking fees for which the state has imposed an additional amount on each ticket and parking citation written, he said.

The administrative procedures involve processing forms and registrations, lengthy computer reporting, and criminal checks, among others.
Penman said the fees are not for revenue purposes.

“The fees are unique to an individual, not to the general overall community,” Penman said. “The city’s perspective is that the costs be recovered because they apply only to one person in the community. It’s never an attempt to make money.

It’s merely to recover the cost of providing programs or services or fines.”
A fee that underwent lengthy discussion was the appeal fee for architectural design reviews, which was formerly $540 but reduced to $210.

“I argued in favor of reducing the fee,” said Councilmember Bob Harbicht. “The reason was I felt like most of those fees that we were looking at were initiated by the applicant. The appeal fee of the homeowner’s association was initiated by the homeowners’ association, except the applicant had to pay the fee because it was overturned.”

According to city minutes, Harbicht felt that residents who live in Homeowners Association areas were being targeted where the rest of the community was not because their only avenue to appeal an Architectural Design Review Board decision is to appeal it to the Planning Commission and pay an appeal fee.

The motion to reduce all Architectural Design Review appeal fees from $540 to $210 was passed 3-2, with Mayor Wuo and Councilman Chandler in opposition.
Wuo voted against the reduction because it subsidized the costs at a time when there is already a budget problem, he said at the meeting.

The city will incur the cost, but while it can be a major cost to the individual, it is a very small amount as far as city revenues are concerned, Harbicht said.

The city also recently adopted more detailed design guidelines a few months ago that give homeowners a better sense of what is permissible, Penman said. The city has only seen one or two appeals since 2006.

Another one of the fees involved a charge for the safekeeping of firearms with the police department for residents going out of town or people with restraining orders.

The fee was approved despite concerns over whether this would discourage people
from using the service, and whether this was a fee the city should incur for public safety.

“Based on the police chief’s testimony at the hearing, it appears that this is a service that takes time away from other staff duties and applies only to a very limited group of residents,” said Councilman Gary Kovacic. “It is a cost that the general public should not have to bear.”

By Sameea Kamal

September 16, 2009

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