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Money-strapped city restructures fees

Having struggled with operating losses in recent years, the City Council on Monday, in its first meeting of the new year, passed a resolutions amending building code fees and hiking the cost of delinquent tax payments.

While the new and amended fees will not make much of a dent in $3 million in operating losses in as many years, it will bring into line revenue for the cost of services.

The package includes emergency service fees of up to $500 for the Fire Department's ambulance service. The new charges could add up to $20,000 for the countywide service.

Officials are also concerned about a nearly $1 million loss in the past five years on reimbursement for emergency services, most of them outside the city. A collection agency was hired last month to pursue the delinquent charges.

The public works permit fees, a new charge, could bring in about $5,000 in added revenue.

The resolution was approved by a 4-3 vote, with members Charles L. Mallow Jr., Rose Mary Christian and Kathleen Brigges voting "no." They contended a part of the proposal would pose a hardship for property owners, particularly the elderly and those on fixed incomes.

They were referring to a new fee schedule that would increase interest charges on delinquent property taxes. A 5 percent charge the first month followed by 1 percent per month penalties and the possibility of a lien placed on the property are included in the resolution.

The revised building code, according to City Manager Jason R. Molino, is an overall updating to meet state requirements, many of which are already in place.

The procedures would include a new sewage fee of $35 per $1,000 gallons of water passing through the wastewater treatment plant.

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