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Paonia updates its fines and fees

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As part of the Town of Paonia's efforts to maintain existing services and bring outdated fines and fees closer in line with actual costs, a draft fee schedule was recently released to the public.

The draft, available at Town Hall or online at townofpaonia.com, splits fees and fines into three categories: "A" for administrative items handled by town staff; "B" for items that must come before special boards and committees for consideration, such as building permits and variances requested; and "PD" for legal fines, citations and summonses, which make up the majority of the schedule.

Legal fees, some of which have not increased in up to 30 or 40 years, will see the biggest increases, said town manager Jane Berry.

The dollar amounts of all fees and fines are intended to reflect the amount of hours staff puts into each item. Berry reminded both trustees and members of the public that the town is seeking to recoup only part of its costs.

Columns include the section of town code where the item is located, the fees currently imposed, and the proposed new fees. Three additional columns provide, where available or applicable, fees currently imposed by the communities of Ridgway, Salida and Telluride.

The draft fee schedule was first proposed by town staff in fall of 2014, prior to Berry's arrival. When she received it, the column for proposed fees was blank. Recommended fees and fines were considered after meeting with department heads, town staff and trustees to determine the amount of time and resources required by the town for each item.

Of the 12 administrative fees now imposed by the town, the annual dog tag fee of $5 ($15 for "untouched" animals), rent of the community center at Town Hall, and park event fees and vendor fees will remain the same. Other fees will increase.

Trustee Amber Kleinman expressed concern over the special event liquor license fee, proposed to increase from $50 to $150. Applications must be approved by the board. "A lot of our non-profits use that to do fundraising at the park and serve beer at the festivals," said Kleinman, pointing out that Telluride charges $78.

Berry defended the increase, stating that "a tremendous amount of work" and many expenses are involved in each license application.

Under the "B" category, many of the items will include a fee plus actual costs, and some services that currently have no associated fee will see new fees established.

Fines associated with crime in the PD category will see some of the biggest increases. In the schedule, recommended fines marked "SUM" are determined by the courts and state statutes and indicate that a summons was issued.

With some of the fines, including "animals running at large," increasing from $10 for a first offense and $25 for the second to $50/$100, respectively, with a summons being issued on the third infraction, Berry explained that for most of those types of issues, the party has received prior warnings before being issued a citation, and staff has spent considerable time on the issue before imposing a fee.

The document does not include fees for the town's water, sewer and trash services, which will be addressed as budget deadlines approach. Trash fees last increased in 2007, water base rates increased by $5 per tap in 2014 as mandated by loan coverage requirements related to the state-mandated and ongoing water improvement project, and wastewater (sewer) has seen no increase since 2005.

Trustees will address public concerns over the draft at the Sept. 22 board meeting and plan to vote on the schedule that evening. At an earlier meeting, Berry described the schedule as something that is subject to amendment on at least an annual basis.

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