The Coast News Group

More accurate fire fee structure set in place

CARLSBAD — Fire prevention services in the city are getting a financial facelift.

The City Council on Tuesday approved 4-0 (Mayor Matt Hall was absent) a new fee structure for those services.

Fire Chief Mike Davis said the new fee schedule is an accurate reflection compared to how the city used to collect those funds. The new fee structure begins Nov. 13.

Fire Marshall Randy Metz, meanwhile, said the new formula is a reflection of keeping home building costs low, while larger projects pay more. He said the city’s new rates are supported by the Building Industry Association of San Diego, a watchdog group.

The city contracted with NBS to complete a comprehensive study for the rate structure.

“Thanks to a study that was done, they are right sized and represent true cost of providing the service,” Davis said. “We believe we’ve met our goals. It’s been many, many years since we’ve had a true, comprehensive study done on those fees, mostly because they weren’t separated.”

For example, a 60,000 square-foot office building would see an increase of 1 cent per square foot or $724 in total. Others would see a nominal decrease, such as a 5,000 square-foot “dream home.”

Davis said the costs for the home run 3 cents less ($149 in total) per square foot than the previous calculation. Metz said the cost for homes will decrease no matter the size, although commercial and industry buildings have two different fee schedules depending on their size.

Apartment buildings, however, would see an increase, although the rise in cost would depend on the number of units. In one example, Davis said a 50-unit facility would see an increase of $10 per unit, or a total of $501.

If a building has more units, the cost would dwindle, but increase with fewer.

Regardless, many of the fees are based on numerous factors to ensure fair pricing between smaller and larger projects, Metz said.

“The fees are using a different multiplier,” he added. “The home (fee) is pretty constant. When you look at a lot of those fees (non-residential), they are tiered.”

The need to revise the fee schedule, Davis and Fire Marshal Randy Metz said, was to develop an accurate total of revenue.

Previously, the funds were combined with building fees, and the new regulation separates the two.

However, the fee schedule is relegated to development, which consists of planning, inspections and administration fees. As for maintenance, Davis said no cost would be applied to homeowners, business and other entities.

In fact, he said providing free maintenance support to residents and businesses should remain in place as a public good. The maintenance includes residents calling the fire department for assessments on the property and fire prevention tips.

Davis said Monty Kalin, a part-time fire prevention specialist with the department, responds to hundreds of calls per year helping residents and businesses strengthen their property, escape plans, weed abatement and other measures.

The chief added the department might also send out a fire engine to assist with recommendations.

“He looks them up on the map, finds out where they are … meets with them face-to-face, walks through their residence and explains what the hazardous are, and hopefully, are not,” Davis said.

To view the new fee schedule for fire prevention, visit