MERIDEN — The City Council’s finance and public safety committees voted Tuesday night to approve a fire department proposal to charge the public for technical services, various permits and repeated false alarms.
The new fees, allowed by state law, will be charged for permits and reviews now issued by the fire marshal’s office for free, including fire, mechanical and electrical plan reviews for new construction or renovations; certificates of occupancy; occupancy inspections; recreational fire permits; and other permits related to hazardous materials.
Fire Chief Ken Morgan said the fees are projected to generate between $85,000 and $100,000 in new revenue annually. The fire department began looking into charging the fees this year as a way to “produce some revenue to offset expenses in the department” and recent budget reductions. The department’s budget of about $9.5 million was recently cut by $250,000 by the City Council.
Several other municipalities, including Hartford and Wallingford, already charge fees for the services as authorized by state law, said Morgan, who is also acting city manager. The proposed fee schedule is similar to those in other municipalities, he added.
The finance and public safety committees unanimously approved the fees Tuesday after hearing Morgan present details. The proposed fees still need approval from the full City Council. If approved, the fees would take effect Jan. 1, Morgan said.
Finance committee Chairman Brian Daniels said he doesn’t see any reason why Meriden shouldn’t charge the fees for services.
The proposed fees for fire, mechanical and electrical plan reviews by the fire marshal’s office would not apply to single- and two-family homes because those are inspected by the building department, Morgan said. The mechanical and electrical reviews are completed for occupancies with certain fire protection systems.
The plan review fees will be based on a percentage of the cost of the building permit fee. Morgan estimated the plan review fees will generate between $25,000 and $40,000 next year based on services the city completed last year.
The department is also looking to charge residential and commercial tenants that have more than four false alarms in a calendar year.
Morgan said the department recently found an ordinance in the City Charter allowing fees following the fourth false alarm, an ordinance the department has never enforced, Morgan said. Residential properties would be charged $25 for each false alarm following the fourth, and commercial properties would be charged $100.
False alarms, Morgan said, do not include an alarm inadvertently going off while someone is cooking, for example, “because the alarm system did what it was supposed to do.” But tenants who fail to resolve ongoing problems that cause false alarms will be fined.
Morgan told councilors the department typically doesn’t have a big problem with recurring false alarms, but he said he knows of some places that have had several false alarms in one day.
“They either haven’t fixed their alarm system, or they’re avoiding fixing it,” he said.