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Fire fee hikes could bring $1.1 million more to city

Many things to feel squeeze, from fireworks to flour mills

By Andrew Ryan
Globe Staff / March 31, 2011

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Mayor Thomas M. Menino proposed yesterday to raise many of the Boston Fire Department’s inspection and permitting fees by 25 percent, a move expected to bring an additional $1.1 million to city coffers.

The increases would be felt largely by construction contractors, developers, and businesses. The cost of inspecting fire extinguisher systems would rise to $90 from $70. A permit for a fireworks display would jump to $85 from $65. The price of building and demolition permits would increase by roughly 25 to 30 percent.

The list of 60 proposed fee increases would also affect hotels, bowling alleys, junk yards, and some more antiquated industries. The annual permit for operating a flour mill, for example, would rise to $525 from $420. Ditto for a grain elevator permit, and permits to store large quantities of matches would jump to $45 from $35.

The ordinance submitted yesterday to the City Council will have little impact on the city’s $2.4 billion budget, however. The Menino administration said the proposal is not an effort to raise revenue, but part of an ongoing assessment of costs at all city agencies. Last year, fees increased at the Inspectional Services Department. The year before that, permitting costs went up at the Parks Department.

“The city regularly reviews its fee and fine structures for any necessary increases to cover the costs of providing services,’’ said Meredith Weenick, Boston’s acting director of administration and finance. “These Fire Department fees have not been updated since 1997, and the new fees will be much more in line with what it costs to do business.’’

The City Council did not vote on yesterday’s proposal and referred the matter to committee. If approved, the fee increases would take effect July 1, at the start of the fiscal year, when most permits are up for renewal.

The fee hike most noticeable to the public may be the increased cost of a fire report, which people request for insurance claims, said Steven MacDonald, spokesman for the Boston Fire Department. The price of a report would double, to $10 from $5.

The proposal Menino submitted yesterday also included six fees that were either new or had not yet been added to the city code. Those additions, which are expected to generate $400,000 next year, include asbestos removal ($35) and transportation of hazardous material ($125).

If the increases are approved, Fire Department fees are expected to raise a total of $4.4 million next year, up from the $3.3 million estimate for the current year.

Andrew Ryan can be reached at acryan@globe.com.