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  • Kevin Elliott

Rochester updates service fees ordinance

Rochester City Council on Monday, August 13, approved an update to its ordinance overseeing service fees charged by the city's clerk's office, planning and building department, as well as associated fees.

City administration staff on July 9 first provided a proposed ordinance amendment and updated fee schedule for various fees that haven't been updated in several years, and for several decades for some fees. The fees, which are set by city ordinance, are to be reassessed and updated each year, under the modified ordinance.

City Manager Blaine Wing said updating the ordinance and fees started as a long-term project several years ago when he was hired by the city. The project will incorporate all of the city's fee schedules into one document that can be reviewed on an annual basis.

Council approved the second reading of the ordinance and the fee schedule related to those charged by the city's clerk's office and the planning and building department.

In reviewing the proposed changes, councilman Ben Giovanelli requested the annual review to include data showing the actual cost to the city in providing the specific services, and that the data include a breakdown of fees paid by residents and those by builders.

Rochester Finance Director Anthony Moggio said Public Act 245 was put in place in 1999 in regards to planning and building fees. The intent, he said, was to stop municipalities from using building-related fees to fund general fund operations. Under the law, a municipality must use money made from those fees for expenses related to costs incurred by the building department. The city also must be able to show those costs. Therefore, that data would be available for review each year for council to assess the appropriateness of the fees.

Giovanelli also took issue with imposing a $25 administration fee for permits charged by the building department when applied for by residents. The intent, staff said, is to cover the cost of processing permits, which takes an average of an hour. However, Giovanelli said residents already pay for staff through their taxes to conduct those services. The fee, he claimed, is essentially charging residents twice.

Wing, in the course of discussions with council, proposed lowering the administration service fee to $10 from the proposed $25. The proposed $10 fee would have provided the city with about $17,775 in 2018 had the fee been retroactive.

The second reading of the ordinance creating a master fee schedule was approved by a vote of 5-1, with councilwoman Ann Peterson opposing the ordinance amendment and Rochester Mayor Rob Ray absent.

Council approved the first reading of the fee schedules for the clerk's office and planning and building departments by 5-1, with Peterson opposing and Ray absent. The schedule will come before council at its August 27 meeting for final approval.

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