The Pueblo Chieftan

Metro board ponders fire prevention fees

Keeping in line with other fire departments, the Pueblo West Fire Department proposed to the Metro District Board of Directors last week a fire prevention fee structure. Board members discussed the item and said they’d give it some more thought before approving or denying in a future meeting.

“Pueblo West has never charged any fees for permitting when we go out for plan reviews, initial inspections, final inspections, follow-up inspections,” said Pueblo West Fire Chief Brian Caserta. “Most people come in and ask how much the fee is for plan review and they’re shocked to hear we don’t have one.”

Caserta said Pueblo has an “extensive fee schedule” and noted that most other fire departments — including Falcon and Elizabeth, which are structured much like Pueblo West — do as well.

“I’m just trying to bring us in line with the fact that this is the norm,” Caserta said. “I certainly don’t believe in charging for everything we do. But we have the costs associated with our inspector going out and reviewing all of this. Brad (Davidson), my inspector, spends hours marking and reviewing plans to make sure they’re in compliance with the International Fire Code.”

Caserta said the permit work is for new commercial construction, or extensive remodels that require upgrades, but is not related to residential construction.

Board members questioned the reason for imposing fees, asking whether they was appropriate or were trying to generate money for the Metro District.

“You’re already being paid by the taxpayers to do these things, so then we’re going to charge again?” asked Director Lew Quigley.

Director Bill Vickers said he agreed, noting his feelings that there should be a proposed tax increase if a government can’t sustain on what it brings in. “User fees are a tax without getting permission,” he added.

District Manager Jack Johnston said he understood their points of view, but noted that the Parks and Recreation Department, for example, charges fees for activities, and that the Committee of Architecture has permit fees for excavation permits, driveway permits and more.

“Like many things in life, if you use it, you pay for it,” said Director Jerry Martin. “I see it as an argument that users pay for what they need, rather than the general taxpayer sharing in it.”

Davidson said many businesses know “exactly what the code is,” and will draw up plans that are as lean as possible to save money.

“Since we don’t charge a fee, they submit the plans over and over and over,” he said. “If they pay a fee, then maybe there is less time submitting plans, which saves us time, and makes buildings come together quicker.”

Caserta told Directors he knows the fire department is a community service, under the District’s general fund. He said putting these types of fees in place – that are consistent with many other area communities – would simply help offset the costs associated with all the inspections.

Directors said they would consider the proposal and will act on it at their next meeting.

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