Council approves new fire fees in close vote

Published 11:21 am Tuesday, November 8, 2011

In a move that required a tie-breaking vote from Mayor Tom Stiehm, Austin City Council members preliminarily approved a series of fees relating to the fire department on Monday night.

The fees include a minimum $250 auto extrication fee, $100 permit fee for freestanding, temporary fireworks companies and a $100 fee for businesses with more than two false alarms each year.

Council member Marian Clennon was absent from the meeting, so Stiehm had to chime in on a tied vote to approve the extrication and fireworks fees.

Email newsletter signup

Fire Chief Mickey Healey said the false alarm fee will affect people whose alarms frequently malfunction without repair from the owner. If someone calls the fire department because of smoke that doesn’t turn out to be a fire, it would not be considered a false alarm.

“I think these would be fair fees for us to look at,” Healey said at the meeting. “These were some of the common fees some fire departments have been going to over the last 10 years.”

The fireworks fee would also help ensure the legality of fireworks being sold in town, Healey said.

Council member Steve King expressed concern about the fees. He said it can be viewed almost as a second tax on top of property taxes that pay for fire services.

“We’re assessing on the tax levy and also assessing fees,” King said. “I just see a slippery slope when you start feeing people for services their property taxes already pay for.”

Judy Enright, council member, said fees are necessary for the city to consider due to loss in Local Government Aid in recent years.

Stiehm and council members Enright, Roger Boughton and Janet Anderson all voted in favor of the extrication and fireworks fees, with council members King, Jeff Austin and Brian McAlister voting no.

Enright, Boughton, McAlister and Anderson voted in favor of the false alarm fee, with Austin and King voting no.

The City Council also voted unanimously to approve increasing snow emergency parking tickets from $10 to $25.

These issues will be taken up at the Nov. 21 council meeting for official approval.