Ironton City Council passes fire consumption fee change

Published 9:50 am Friday, June 11, 2010

The Ironton City Council has unanimously passed an ordinance amending the fire consumption fee for businesses.

The ordinance passed at Thursday evening’s regular meeting after having died at the May 27 meeting when no motion was made for a vote.

The ordinance means that businesses within the city limits of Ironton will pay a $12 monthly flat fee for fire protection.

In the past, the fire fee was billed according to water usage. Each non-residential customer paid 90 cents per 1,000 gallons used each month with a minimum payment of about $4.

Councilman Chuck O’Leary had requested that the ordinance be put back on the agenda for Thursday night’s meeting.

He said he was trying to correct an ordinance that was unfair.

The vote to suspend the rules and adopt the ordinance on the first reading this time came after council heard from business owners who expressed concern.

JoLinda Heaberlin is owner and operator of Jo-Lin Health Center. The nursing home pays between $320 and $350 each month for the fire fee.

She asked that council vote for the change in the fire fee.

“I’ve been in business in this town since 1970,” she told council. “I know your job is hard but so is mine and I would like every consideration you can give me.”

Heaberlin added that she supports the fire department but wanted the fee to be fair.

Sue Rodriguez, owner of Super Wash Coin Laundry, also addressed council about the fire fee, asking council members to seriously consider changing the fee to make it fair.

Garry Castle, owner of Super Wash carwash, also attended the meeting, but did not speak. Castle had brought the matter to the attention of council in the past.

“It’s only fair that it be spread out,” Castle said after the meeting.

O’Leary, along with Councilmen Frank Murphy and Kevin Waldo, sponsored the ordinance.

“It’s a needed fee, it’s just not administered right in my opinion,” O’Leary said before the meeting, adding that the fee should not be connected to water usage.

The wording of the ordinance also caused some concern. As read at the last meeting, the ordinance stated, “every nonresidential customer of the city shall pay a $12 monthly fire safety fee.” Council amended the ordinance Thursday to state, “every business of the city shall pay a $12 monthly fire safety fee.” The difference is that some businesses have more than one water meter while other meters have more than one business.

Jo-Lin Health Center, for instance has four water meters and four water bills, Heaberlin said.

Instead of using the water bill for the fire fee, City Finance Director Kristen Martin suggested invoicing the bill by businesses in the city limits, according to Lawrence County records.

In other business, the Ironton City Council also:

Passed a resolution authorizing the renewal of a one-mil flood protection levy. The levy will be put on the ballot of the general election Nov. 2.

Heard the second reading of an ordinance establishing rules and regulations at the city’s skate park, which has yet to open.