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Hotchkiss residents may soon see an increase in town fees

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The Town of Hotchkiss will soon implement new fees and increase others. "These fees are designed to be sustaining, but not make money," explained Mayor Wendell Koontz. The council has yet to officially implement the fee schedule, but it is anticipated they will do so at the June 8 meeting. If the resolution is passed at the meeting, the fees will go into effect on July 1.

Trustees are looking to increase fees for dog licensing, vendor solicitor licenses, street closures, encroachment/excavation services, as well as raise the fee for water purchased from the standpipe. The council is also looking to begin charging people for VIN inspections, fingerprints, faxing and water shutoffs.

The fee proposal is $10 each for VIN inspections and fingerprints; $1/page for incoming and outgoing faxes; $10 per street closure request; and $20 for water shutoff or turn-on requests. Dog licensing fees will increase to $7.50 per animal if the dog is spayed or neutered and $15 if the animal is not fixed. For the vendor fee, it is proposed to charge a $15 application fee, and then $5 for a day, $30 for a week, $100 for a month and $250 for a year.

Water purchased from the standpipe will increase to $9.50 for 1,000 gallons. If a water user wishes to have the town bill them for water from the standpipe, there will be a one time fee of $50 to establish an account. Those requesting encroachment or evacuation permits will pay a refundable $500 deposit and then a per-square-foot fee depending on the type of material that is being used (dirt, road base, asphalt or concrete).

Trustees had a few concerns with the proposed fee schedule, which was drafted by town clerk Marlene Searle and deputy clerk Ginger Redden, after the two researched other similarly sized municipalities in the state. Trustee Larry Jakubiak expressed concern about the vendor fee. Asking vendors such as crafters and artists to pay a fee to the town on top of paying a fee to an organizing festival would be burdensome, he said. "Most towns don't charge vendors at festivals," he said, and said instead it was the responsibility of the organizing festival to make sure all vendors are compliant with local and state fees and taxes. Searle explained the fee is not intended for group events, like a craft fair or the upcoming Farm to Fiddle event.

Trustees also struggled with the water shut off fee. To be clear, the town anticipates charging for voluntary water shut offs, such as when a homeowner is making repairs and requests the water shut off. If water is shut off due to non-payment, that fee for turn on remains in place.

But the public works staff struggles with the voluntary shutoffs. As public works director Mike Owens explained, his crew often gets called out on weekends and after hours to shut off the water to a home. And while occasional shutoffs are not an issue, it's the repeat requests and inconvenient times (2 a.m. call out, anyone?) that Owens struggles with. He suggested an across the board fee for any and all shutoffs.

Both Searle and Mayor Koontz expressed doubt about an across the board fee, wanting to take into greater consideration what constitutes a true emergency. As Searle said, a homeowner doesn't anticipate a break, to which Owens replied that all homes and businesses in town receiving town water should have their own valve where they can control the water flow themselves. "But we don't want to penalize someone for something beyond their control," Mayor Koontz replied.

The council finally settled on adding language to the resolution that implements a $20 fee for all water shutoff/turn-on requests, but gives authority to the director of public works to waive the fee for a true emergency.

The June 8 meeting begins at 6:30 p.m., and this item will be up for discussion and possible implementation.

Read more from:
North Fork
Fees, Hotchkiss
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