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Friday, July 30, 2004


Hailey eyes cost of services

Council approves more fee increases

Express Staff Writer

The city of Hailey has approved fee increases for building, fire, encroachment and subdivision permits. The increases correlate with city staff efforts to identify areas where the true cost of providing city services is not being covered by the current fee structure.

"As we enter an era of tighter budgets, the budget over time needs to become more precise," said Hailey City Administrator Jim Azumano.

Azumano has been working with staff to get a better understanding of how fees are distributed for what services.

"Taxes cover what is a general level of service. Fees are for costs beyond that," Azumano said. The city staff has created a flow chart to identify the gaps, where the city is not recouping the actual cost of services it provides.

"The intent is to show inconsistency in how we apply our fees," Azumano said.

One example of how the city can improve getting more appropriate compensation inspection services involves how the city might charge encroachment fees if Idaho Power needs to do work in the city right of way, said City Engineer Tom Hellen.

The city has charged a single $25 encroachment fee in the past, but work on a major project could involve 15 to 150 crossings of the right of way, Hellen said. "It is a major impact on the right of way."

The new encroachment fee involves a $50 application fee and a $100 inspection fee for residential driveways and $200 for commercial driveways.

The new fee schedule incorporates incentives to developers to make the most efficient use of city staff time particularly in the building and fire departments.

The new fee schedules are most complicated in the Hailey Fire Department, where the revised fee structure is designed to help the department cover the actual cost of fire inspections of new construction.

The department estimates that it spends 25 percent of its time on development applications when it should spend more time on training, routine inspections and prevention education, Assistant Fire Chief Carl Hjelm said.

"As we find our gaps we see where the leakage is in the system," Azumano said.

Azumano also pointed out that the Hailey Planning Department spends the vast majority of its time on development work and has little time left for city planning, something the city needs to better prepare for the city’s future.

Hellen said in some cases construction inspection fees can be a win-win situation for both the developer and the city.

Developers of the final Northridge project near the Hailey Middle School have paid $6,100 in fees.

"We get improvements from the developer that ensure a good life span of infrastructure," Hellen said. The developer ends up with a more valuable and marketable product, he said.

"Out of fairness to citizens (the fees should) cover the cost rather than helping somebody make a profit," Hellen said.

The increase in fees does not solve the problem that city departments spend the majority of their time doing development work, but it is a city goal.

A fiscal and economic review of the city’s revenue proposal by planning consulting group Tischler and Associates Inc. concluded that the fee structure is too heavily tax-based and not heavily enough fee-based, said Hailey City Clerk Heather Dawson.

"We can work with whatever dollars are provided to us," Azumano said. "But, (people) have to understand the level of service is (citizens) get what they pay for."

The new fees go into effect in August.



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