MERIDEN — The city will charge fees for certain permits and services beginning next year in a move intended to offset a $250,000 cut to the Fire Department in the recently adopted budget.
The City Council voted Tuesday to approve new fees the fire department will begin charging the public next year for technical services, various permits and inspections, and repeated false alarms.
The new fee schedule will take effect Jan. 1 and will cover permits and reviews now done by the fire marshal's office for free, including fire, mechanical and electrical plan reviews for new construction or renovations; certificates of occupancy; recurring inspections, recreational fire permits; permits related to hazardous materials; firework sales permits; and repetitive false alarms.
Several other municipalities, including Hartford and Wallingford, already charge fees for the services as authorized by state law, Fire Chief Ken Morgan said. Morgan said the department looked at fees charged by 10 other municipalities around the area to determine Meriden’s rates.
The department hopes revenue will help offset the $250,000 cut the City Council made to the fire budget following July’s referendum. Morgan projects the fees will generate about $100,000 in revenue.
In addition to charging for technical services and permits, the department will also 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 will be charged $25 for each false alarm following the fourth, and commercial properties will 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.
The City Council’s Public Safety and Finance committees both unanimously approved the fee schedule last week.
Republican Councilor Dan Brunet, the only councilor who voted against the new fees, expressed concerns about not having a chance to review documents with the new schedule prior to the vote. Brunet is a member of council’s Finance Committee but did not attend the meeting last week.
The fee schedule documents weren’t included in the council’s meeting packet, Brunet said at the meeting. Finance committee chairman Brian Daniels told Brunet the packet was distributed on Friday, so he had three days to request it prior to the meeting.
Democratic Councilor Bruce Fontanella made a motion to table the council’s vote on the fees until all councilors had time to review the fee schedule, however, that motion failed 4-3.