Morgantown fire fee increase proposal moves to regular meeting next week

MORGANTOWN,W.Va. – Morgantown city council members will consider a fire fee increase to continue funding for a dozen city firefighters who are currently paid through SAFER grant funds.

City Manager Paul Brake told council members the cost of keeping the 12 firefighters on staff is about $1.2 million.

The 10 percent fire fee increase proposed during the first reading of the budget will raise an additional $335,000. Another 13 percent increase proposed during the second reading will generate an additional $435,000, leaving a $430,000 gap in funding. City Manager Brake told council members another $356,000 is earmarked to come from sales tax revenue and a small portion of the SAFER grant remains.

The ordinance council will consider at the next meeting will take the fire fee from .0766 to .0942 per square foot.

Based on a 2,000-square foot home Brake says the annual payment for a homeowner that takes advantage of the 5 percent discount by paying before August 15 would go from $145.54 to $178.98.

“For the average homeowner – $33.44 per year or $2.79 per month,”Brake said,”That will help us close the gap.”

Blake says the increase is very reasonable in order to maintain quality fire protection.

“Equate this monthly increase as the cost of a cup of coffee, if you go to McDonalds,” Brake said.

Brake cautioned council members that next year there will be no more grant money, another $93,000 will have to be allocated to keep the firefighters.

The ordinance also calls for a hazard classification class system to be in place by October of 2020. The system would require property owners to pay a fire fee based on the type of business and safety issues that could arise in a fire.

The hazard classification is intended to shift cost to property owners who have fuel tanks, chemicals or other potentially dangerous elements to their property.