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Quincy DPW chief seeks authority to set fees

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  April 4, 2012 03:00 PM

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Quincy city councilors will resume debate about Department of Public Works fees over the the next month, after failing to come to any conclusions in late March regarding the matter.

During their meeting on March 26, the city’s Ordinance Committee discussed the fees again, which would range from a $25 fine for denial to grant city workers access to the water meter readers, to $1,000 for unauthorized hydrant use.

Unlike in previous meetings, where just a list of the offenses was discussed, DPW Commissioner Daniel Raymondi provided councilors with dollar figures for each charge during the Monday meeting.

“For too many years…the city has not been making it difficult for people to do bad things. A lot of the charges set and the liens we’re asking the council to do is to reestablish the fact that bad conduct won’t be tolerated, and bad conduct will not be rewarded,” Raymondi told the council.

Already, the threat of such fees is working. Reports of the discussion prompted several people to call to get their water meters replaced.

Others who don’t acquiesce will have a shock should the fees be put in place, Raymondi said.

Most of the fees are around $75 – for water service turn on/off, lawn service applications, street/sidewalk openings, fire hydrant meter application, and backflow prevention device testing and inspection.

Others climb a bit higher, to around $100 - for a manual meter read (for residents that refuse to switch to the new electronic system), water meter tests for 1-inch or smaller pipes, water service applications, fire hydrant meter service, or water or sewer pipe inspections.

Raymondi asked for the ability to set the fees himself, something that he said would give the department “more flexibility” to raise or lower fees as necessary.

The council would have to pass legislation that would give Raymondi that authority. The legislation would give all department heads the power, unless otherwise specified.

Overall, councilors agreed on the need for fees, yet felt that relinquishing the power to set the fees was troublesome.

“The right role for City Council is as oversight, to ensure thoughtful rationale made for all fees, and that the executive branch doesn’t have discretion to do this unchecked,” Councilor Doug Gutro said.

The council can still place a lien on a property with these charges, as long as the fees are individually passed by the council.

However, some councilors disagreed with a conservative approach.

“This is only to get folks who aren’t paying their bills to do so…we are not here to micromanage,” council President Michael McFarland. “We’re here to observe, have oversight, but we’re not here to set the rates for these folks. That’s an administrative function.”

The item was kept in committee and will be up for discussion again soon. In the meantime, councilors asked the assistant city solicitor to put forth suggested language for the ordinance.

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