Selectmen consider broad range of fee increases
By: Christopher Kazarian
As of January 1, it will be out with the old and in with the new, a mantra that will include a slew of higher fees that residents can expect to pay for various town services, including for children’s swimming lessons, dump fees, and public records requests from the Falmouth Police Department.
Selectmen voted to increase those fees this week and will continue the discussion next Monday as debate was halted after the board voted to charge residents a $2.50 fee for each 30-gallon bag of trash brought to the dump, as well as a $2.50 fee for each tire brought there, too.
While that vote generated the most discussion, there were other fee proposals that selectmen debated as well.
Included in that discussion were mooring fees and rates for transient and seasonal slips, which will all be increased in January across the board. Daniel H. Shearer of Chapoquoit Road, West Falmouth, was troubled by how little the fees would be raised. He noted that in the harbor, private entities such as MacDougalls’ Cape Cod Marine Services, charge a much higher rate for slips than the town does.
Compared to other towns on the Cape, he said, Falmouth charges below the average, yet has above-average amenities, referencing the public bathrooms and showers at Falmouth Inner Harbor on Scranton Avenue as an example. “We have everything going for us there,” he said.
He noted that at the Annual Town Meeting next month there is an article that asks to borrow $2.9 million to add 29 slips and repair the electrical wiring at the bulkhead. By raising the fees even higher than proposed—his suggestion was $200 a foot on the seasonal slips—Falmouth could increase its revenues and be in line with neighboring towns and private marinas. He said selectmen would be making a big mistake by not considering raising fees higher.
Selectman Brent V.W. Putnam, who has a mooring on the Childs River, had concerns about the town’s mooring policy, arguing that there are those who have moorings who never use them year after year. “I think our policy needs to be reviewed in general,” he said.
Falmouth Harbor Master Gregg P. Fraser responded by saying that since 1997 the town has had a policy in which a specific boat is assigned to each mooring. “You do not have to have a boat attached to it,” he said.
While Mr. Putnam may have valid concerns, Mr. Fraser said, his department does not have the manpower to look at the town’s 3,000-plus moorings and determine who is using them and who is not.
However, Mr. Putnam said, it is a policy that selectmen need to scrutinize to see if improvements can be made.
He also said that Mr. Shearer’s suggestions should be pondered by the board if there is a major discrepancy with fees set by private marinas. “I will sit and argue for raising mooring fees on myself, because I understand it is a luxury,” he said.
Both Mr. Fraser and J. Michael Kinney, chairman of the Falmouth Waterways Committee, said the mooring and slip fees were being raised slightly over time as opposed to in huge increments as Mr. Shearer was suggesting. Waterways committee member Edward A. Denton reminded selectmen that the mooring and slip fees were never intended to be a cash cow. “They were intended to pay its freight and we do more than that typically,” he said, noting that more than $600,000 is grossed by these receipts before taking into account the roughly $250,000 in operating costs.
He also said it was unfair to compare Falmouth’s costs with a private entity like MacDougalls’. “It is an apples to oranges type of thing,” he said. Mr. Shearer said the town needs to closely look at its revenue stream and argued that the three main reasons people come to Falmouth are its beaches, its boating, and golfing.
This week the board elected to go with Mr. Fraser’s and the waterways recommendations, which include increasing private moorings from $70 to $80. In addition, seasonal slips at the harbor will go from $143.50 a foot for residents to $150 a foot, and from $166.50 a foot for nonresidents to $173 a foot.
Among the other increases to be approved on Monday will be to charge residents a $20 fee for children’s swimming lessons per child. The cost was previously $10 a child. For those with multiple children there will be an increase from $5 to $10 per additional child.
The Falmouth Recreation Department will increase its fees for its youth summer camp from $125 for a two-week session to $140 for a two-week session from 9 AM to 3 PM. To extend the camp one hour longer to 4 PM the cost will be $160 for two weeks.
The use of the teen center or gymnasium will now cost $120 for every two hours. There was previously no cost associated with this.
There will be a number of hikes for those who do business with the Falmouth Conservation Commission. Commercial notice of intents will be raised from $100 to $150, while requests for determination of applicability will go from $75 to $100.
For those residents or entities that file an application after conducting the work, the fee will be doubled as opposed to 150 percent of the listed fee.
Both the Falmouth Fire Rescue Department and the Falmouth Police Department raised a number of their fees.
The fire department saw nine of its services increase from the $10 to $20 range to $25. This includes those for cannon and mortar, which is charged on a per-shot basis, as well as for new lumber yards.
Selectmen asked about the tar kettle permit, which Fire Chief Paul D. Brodeur said is for roofers who have their own tar kettle. “We issue one maybe every 25 years,” he said.
Captain Stephen M. O’Neil of the Falmouth Police Department talked about the $25 alarm registration fee, which prior to this week, was not charged to residents.
The department responds to more than 2,700 alarms every year and about one percent of those prove to be fruitful, he said. “It is a huge waste of our time,” he said.
During storms, he said, a number of house alarms will go off and it is up to the sergeant on duty to determine whether it is necessary to respond. Until 2007 the number of residents seeking commercial shellfishing licenses held steady for over a decade. But during the past two years, Falmouth Department of Natural Resources Assistant Director R. Charles Martinsen III said, that number has increased by more than 50 percent.
As a result he proposed increasing the cost of the license from $200 to $300 for the year to see if that will curb the interest.
In addition to these fee increases, the board agreed to raise the sewer rates to offset an estimated $360,000 deficit for this year. Those rates will go up from the current rate of $3.81 per hundred cubic feet to $6.10 per hundred cubic fee. There will also be a minimum charge of $122 associated with that rate change.
Assistant Wastewater Manager Amy A. Lowell anticipated that this would generate roughly $91,000 of revenue this year for the wastewater division. Discussion on the remaining fees was cut short and will continue next Monday when the board considers eliminating the Super Sticker, a combined two-year beach sticker and dump sticker, that could be purchased at a discount.
Leave a Reply
In order to comment you need to be logged in.