Morgantown increases fire fee, announces plan to reopen buildings, looks to adds to outdoor dining program

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Morgantown City Council members have given the go ahead to a 23 percent increase of the city fire fee.

The ordinance council will increase the fire fee from .0766 to .0942 per square foot and add a provision for a hazard classification. Interim City Manager Emily Muzzarelli said the increased cost for the owner of a 2,000-square foot home would be $2.78 per month or $33.44 per year.

Muzzarelli also told council members there will be a special plan established to help some residents with the increased fee.

“Authorization of payment plans with, or without interest, or down payment for a time period determined by the finance director,”Muzzarelli said,”Waiving penalties for interest if applicable, of fees, dues or payments under payment plans and forgiveness of certain payments.”

According to information in the meeting details, the hazard classification will calculate the fee based on gross square footage of a structure and would be included in the FY 2022 budget. The document also says,”A proposed fee for fire protection service charges to be assessed based on hazard classifications, including the fee imposed on each use identified to which hazard classification will apply and the total revenue proposed to be raised by such fee.”

Muzzarelli says work on the fire classification program will become a priority as summer continues.

“A hazard classification to be presented on or before October 31 of 2020. For assessing fire protection service charges based on hazard classification of a building rather than square footage,” Muzzarelli said,”This would be addition to, or along with other fees.”

For people not within the city limits that require fire protection services the document says,”An hourly fee for each and every use of such fire protection services, payable on demand by the city, as determined by the City Manager or designee based o an hourly rate as calculated from the city’s current fire department budget divided by 8,760 hours. Additional charges for expendable materials not otherwise contracted for/by the city shall also be levied.”

City buildings will reopen to the public next week, but there will be changes. City staff will have masks, gloves and cleaner for residents, but officials encourage the public to use their own protective equipment.

“Many of our public meetings will continue to be held electronically,” Muzzarelli said,”While Mon County has been removed from the designation as a hot spot we still have limitations on the size of gatherings.”

Many items of business with the city can be completed online for those who don’t want to come to city offices.

In addition to expanding outdoor dining in the city, coordination is underway with the Morgantown Area Partnership and businesses owners to convert some parking on High Street to outdoor dining or retail.

“We developed this temporary outdoor dining program that was able to extend outdoor dining within all of city limits,” Muzzarelli said,”And waiving fees for non-alcoholic permits.”

Morgantown council members also reported complaints from residents about the reliability of trash collection from Suncrest, Woodburn and residents on Mississippi Street.