St. Petersburg Times
Fire district considers collecting impact fee
By SHEILA MULLANE ESTRADA
Published April 10, 2005
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - The Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District is considering levying an impact fee on all new construction in its territory - the latest move in an effort to find enough revenue to keep the 50-year-old organization financially sound.
The proposed fee would be $1 per square foot. A final decision will be made at the district board's April 19 meeting. The fee, if approved, would go into effect May 1.
"The impact fee will apply to all new construction, as well as tear-down and rebuild projects," fire Chief John Leahy said.
For rebuild projects, the fee would apply only to expanded square footage. The fee would also apply to parking lots and all covered surfaces.
The fire district's board of commissioners instituted several fees earlier this year. But the revenue will not be enough, officials say, leading them to propose their fifth special fee in less than six months.
Without significant additional revenue, financial problems will escalate as its reserves are used up, possibly as soon as the end of 2006, officials say.
The district's auditor has said that without a solution, he will be forced to report the district's pending insolvency to the state. The district's charter prohibits borrowing to fund regular operations.
The fee change would affect about 12,000 homes and businesses served by the district in Indian Shores, Indian Rocks Beach, Belleair Beach and Belleair Shore, as well as on the mainland from Walsingham Road south to 94th Avenue and from 131st Street west to the Intracoastal Waterway.
The district also provides emergency rescue services to Redington Shores, North Redington Beach and Redington Beach under a contract with Pinellas County.
The new fee proposal is the latest in a series of developments for the fire district.
A lawsuit filed last year by Indian Rocks Beach officials and residents who were opposed to a proposed fire fee schedule has been dismissed "without prejudice." The plaintiffs have a month to refile an amended complaint, according to Leahy.
"This could go on forever. I don't know if I'll live that long," said board Chairman Tom Hafner.
The lawsuit originally argued that the fire district's flat $190 property assessment, approved by voters in 2003, was unconstitutional. Yet, last year, voters rejected a switch to a square-footage-based fee structure that could have raised some homeowners' fire fees several hundred dollars.
Because of the lawsuit, the fire district has been instructed by its attorney not to answer questions from a special oversight review board set up by Pinellas County and the towns of Belleair Beach, Belleair Shore, Indian Rocks Beach and Indian Shores.
The review board has met several times and is considering hiring an outside consultant to report on the fire district. The group was formed amid officials' concerns that the independent fire board is mismanaging the organization's finances.
The board also plans to study the area's future needs for fire and EMS services, the district's ability to respond to those needs, how to improve district operations,and alternative methods of providing fire service.
The independent fire district was formed in the 1950s by the state Legislature and could be dissolved the same way. If the district is dissolved, fire and rescue service most likely would be provided by nearby departments in Largo and Seminole at an unknown cost.
These fire district fees were also instituted this year:
A $100 fee for annual life safety and fire inspections at restaurants, assembly halls, marinas, apartment buildings, private schools, day care centers, licensed adult living facilities, hotels and motels and businesses that have fire sprinklers.
Plan review fees for new construction ranging from $200 to $500, depending on square footage.
Hiked inspection fees for installations of liquid propane and natural gas, as well as inspections of structure remodeling or additions.
Reinspection fees of $50 for the first inspection and $100 for the second inspection. Previously, a flat $25 was charged per unit.
[Last modified April 10, 2005, 00:40:18]
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04-12-2005, 09:27 PM #1
Pinellas Suncoast Looks to Collect Impact Fees09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
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The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.
04-27-2005, 08:49 PM #2
It wont be enough, but every little bit helps
Last edited by Dave1983; 04-27-2005 at 08:51 PM.Fire Marshal/Safety Officer
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