City Council voted last week to adopt a new fire protection fee schedule based upon the size and classification of properties, and whether those properties are vacant or not.
The original fee, which was enacted about a year ago, was set at a flat $50-per-parcel rate. However, Mayor Justin Taylor said he introduced the new fire fee ordinance as "a fairer and more equitable payment system for property owners."
As he explained: "We came up with this because right now someone who owns a vacant lot is paying $50 and Weis is paying the same $50 rate."
During a special meeting on Monday night, Feb. 4, council approved that ordinance by a 4-1 vote, with Councilman Francis Lagana opposing it. Councilmen Dr. Joseph Marzzacco and Walter Martzen were not present.
Lagana said he objected to the idea of charging owners of vacant lots with a fire protection fee, and to the various other costs being imposed upon residents by the city.
As he put it at a previous meeting: "It's all tax, tax, tax, fee, fee, fee....The next thing you know, they'll want to charge the people for cutting their grass."
The new fire fees are as follows: vacant land/lot, $15; single family home (one unit), $50; residential building (2 to 5 units), $25 per unit; residential building (6 to 10 units), $20 per unit; residential building (11 to 15 units), $200 plus $15 per unit; residential building (16-20 units), $225 plus $10 per unit; residential building (21 or more units), $250 plus $10 per unit; commercial or residential mix building (1 to 3 units), $75; commercial or residential mix building (4 or more units), $100; commercial or industrial, $150.
With the change to the fire fees, Taylor noted that tax bills may be going out a little late this year.
"By a week or two at most," he related. "We're not expecting it to take much longer than that to get them out."