Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Hailey adjusts sewer, building and sign fees

Some changes were due to citizen complaints

Express Staff Writer

    The Hailey City Council voted Monday to adjust fees associated with signs, building permits and sewer use. The changes were made to more accurately reflect costs to city staff, and to be more equitable to those using city services.
    Several of the fee adjustments were made in response to citizen complaints.
    “This feels more fair,” Councilwoman Carol Brown said after the council signed off on the changes.
    The council followed a recommendation by former Public Works Director Tom Hellen that for residents who move from one location to another within the city with no increase in the number of people in the house, the city charge a rate based on established use, rather than automatically charging a 6,000-gallons-per-month rate for the first two months.
    The change was made in response to a complaint from Hailey resident Cynthia Rapp, who said in a letter to the city that she was “shocked” at her new bill.
    The council also voted to charge new townhome and condo residents whose lawns are irrigated with a separate homeowners association account a wastewater rate that is based on their first two months of domestic consumption.
    Hailey resident Roger Riccardi was provided with a break on a $326 sewer bill based on his water consumption during the winter, when Riccardi “trickled” water outside into his yard to avoid having his pipes freeze. The council recommends outdoor trickling, but in Riccardi’s case it led to the line’s freezing anyway and thousands of dollars in expenses.
    “As a nonresident owner this [trickling] is risky,” Riccardi stated in an email to the Hailey Public Works Department.
    Following a switch from voluntary to mandatory adherence to the city’s Build Better Program about a year ago, the council also voted to reduce from 50 percent to 8 percent a discount on building permit fees for projects using the “performance path” to more energy-efficient design. The program was intended to promote “green building.”
    The change was based on an analysis by the Department of Building Safety of the amount of staff time saved during the review and inspection period when a builder uses a Home Energy Rating System, which includes a blower test to measure a building’s air tightness.
    Since the Build Better Program was made mandatory, the city has had no builders choose the performance path, a memo from the Community Development Department stated.
    The council also simplified the reroof inspection fee from a complex formula to a $75 flat fee for any roof, and added a $75 new fireplace inspection fee.
    Council members also voted to increase the minimum square footage that triggers the requirement for a building permit from 120 square feet to 200 square feet, to bring the city into compliance with the 2012 International Building Code.
The council also followed a recommendation by Community Development Director Micah Austin to increase the fee for permitting a new permanent sign from $30 to $50, and to reduce the cost for a portable sign permit from $50 to $20.
    “This will more closely reflect the amount of staff time,” Austin said.
    The council followed Austin’s recommendation to reduce the cost of a floodplain development permit from $400 to $75 for work that has “no substantial impact,” such as gardens.
    An ordinance was passed authorizing the Hailey Public Library to increase the cost of color copies from 10 cents to 50 cents per copy.
    Mayor Fritz Haemmerle thanked city staff for undertaking the task of adjusting the many “mind-numbing” details involved in the fee analyses.
    Council members also discussed the proposed use of independent “free-market” testers for irrigation system backflow prevention devices, which are mandated by state law.  Councilman Pat Cooley said it could take five years for all city residents to get into compliance with the proposed new ordinance.

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