QUESTION: Who’s responsible for implementing the fees that businesses in Burlington must now pay for fire inspections? Were these charges ever approved by Burlington’s city council? Who gets the proceeds from these fees?
ANSWER: Burlington’s fire inspection fees have remained a hot topic ever since they were enacted as part of the city’s annual budget in the spring of 2020.
As The Alamance News has previously reported, these fees were initially adopted during the tenure of Burlington’s former fire chief Jay Smith in order to cover a change in the way that the city calculates the workweek for its firefighters, who are now credited with more overtime than they were in the past.
The entire city council, including Burlington’s new mayor Jim Butler, signed off on these fees when it approved the city’s municipal spending plan for the fiscal year that began on July 1, 2020. The council nevertheless accepted the fees with the understanding that they would be reevaluated after a period of time to see if they were achieving the desired effect.
Butler, who was a regular council member when the fees were first introduced, admits that he has gotten enough pushback from the business community to suggest that it may be high time to take another look at this charge.
“I have had some feedback and heard some concerns,” the mayor acknowledged in an interview Tuesday, “and I think it is worthy of council discussion.”
The fees themselves, which range from $69 to $319 depending on a business’ square footage, are collected on the city’s behalf by a private firm called Fire Recovery, U.S.A. This Georgia-based contractor takes a cut of $18.50 for every fee it collects, while the rest of the funds revert to the city’s general fund – a repository for various taxes and fees which pays for most of the city’s programs and services.
According to the city’s records, this fee brought about $101,000 into the general fund between January and November of 2021.
THE PUBLIC ASKS: Have a question about a matter of public record? Call The Alamance News at 228-7851; write to the newspaper at P.O. Box 431, Graham, NC 27253; or e-mail email@example.com.
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