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Fire inspection fee proposal to get 'tweaks'

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A proposal to charge annual fire inspection fees to commercial, industrial and non-profit buildings in Lebanon is still in the pipeline - but with two "tweaks" or revisions.

According to City Finance Director Robert Springer, the two changes will be added to the proposed fire inspection ordinance that is scheduled for second reading at Tuesday night's regular City Council meeting.

"The first amendment to the ordinance will set the fee for non-profits at $25, and the second will change the deadline to submit information from 30 to 45 days," Springer said.

But commercial and industrial buildings would still be assessed $75 for their annual fire inspections, according to the pending ordinance, and churches and church-owned property would still get their fees waived.

'Work in progress'
Ward 5 Councilor Tick Bryan suggested the first change reducing the fee for non-profits to $25.

"It's a work in progress," he said. "We're doing some changes." Bryan also said he has talked to some residents who are totally against the fees.

"Some people say they already have sprinkler systems," he explained. "They already have the inspection done, pay for it and turn it in."

Those businesses don't see why there should be a fee to file the information, Bryan said.

But filing the information is just one part of the issue, he added.

"The Fire Department is trying to determine which buildings have the sprinklers and if they are being inspected," he said. "Smith Furniture caught fire recently and their sprinklers put it out. Their system worked."

Bryan did say that $75 seems a little steep to him, but he's aware that the Fire Department doesn't generate any income, so the proposed annual inspection fees could help pay the cost to have this information on record.

"This will bring in less than $15,000," Fire Chief Chris Dowell said. "Only about 186 buildings have sprinkler systems. Only about a quarter of the businesses in town are affected. If they don't have sprinkler systems, this doesn't affect them."

Dowell also said the fees will go to the Fire Department to pay inspectors to go out and check to be sure businesses that have sprinklers are being inspected. "We have some businesses that haven't been inspected in six or seven years," he said.

'Dog doesn't hunt'
CEO for Cedarcroft Home, T. A. Bryan, who spoke at last week's Lebanon City Council meeting when the proposal was approved on first reading, said he's not pleased with the fee.

"The $75 fee doesn't sit well with me, but if it was to pay firefighters, I'd be all for it," he said.

"But for administration, no. That dog doesn't hunt with me."

He repeated what he told the council last week, that non-profits like Cedarcroft are already doing their annual inspections and turning in paperwork without paying a fee.

"We have a company approved by the state that does our inspections every year," said CEO Bryan, who is Councilor Bryan's father. "Then I turn in a copy to the state and one to the city."

He also expressed concern that this ordinance would lead to a fee per sprinkler head.

"I've heard they're going to charge 15 cents per head. We've got 221 heads. That's $33.15," he said.

But Chief Dowell said a per-head fee is not part of this ordinance and that he doesn't favor a per-head fee.

T. A. Bryan also reiterated that if the money went to provide additional firefighters, he'd support that.

"The firemen do a great job," he said. "If it's for the firemen, for new station personnel, I'm all for it."

Writer Connie Esh may be contacted at cewrites@yahoo.com.

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