People doing business with the Town of Bourne can expect to pay higher fees when dealing with several town departments. The select board has approved requests to increase fees for the fire department, the department of natural resources, and building and inspections.
The board’s approvals came during its meeting on November 1. Approval was given to all suggested increases, except a technology fee proposed by building inspector Kenneth Murphy.
Mr. Murphy requested an increase to the permit fees charged by the building department. He recommended a 20 cents-per-square-foot increase for residential projects and a 25 cents-per-square-foot increase for commercial. The current rates, he said, have been in place for more than 20 years.
Mr. Murphy added that part of the rationale for increasing fees is to generate additional revenue, so he can hire a full-time assistant inspector. He said he currently handles all inspections for his department, and an assistant would be helpful.
“We do have a large list that I have to do yearly,” he said, “and there’s quarterly, but I have a yearly inspection of every single restaurant, bar, nursery school in town, and hotels that I pretty much am doing by myself right now.”
Mr. Murphy said he also wanted to introduce a $55 information technology (IT) fee. He said his department often has to scan plans for people, answer questions on computer usage and assist people in setting up an account to apply for a permit.
He added that the department has been doing an extensive amount of scanning of old site plans and permits into a new software program. Board member Mary Jane Mastrangelo raised questions about the IT fee, and said that it was “a little problematic for me.”
Ms. Mastrangelo questioned when and how the fee would be applied. Mr. Murphy said it would depend on the amount of time and effort required to help a given applicant. He said the fee should not be applied to every application.
The building inspector added that it would be a one-time fee that would cover additional times the applicant would return for more help. Ms. Mastrangelo said she was still troubled by the fee because she felt it was too vague as to when it would be applied.
“It needs to be more clear about what constitutes requiring assistance,” she said, “and when is it not required, and who’s going to decide this person’s going to get charged.”
The board voted unanimously to approve all recommended building and inspections department fee increases, except the IT fee. Board members agreed with Ms. Mastrangelo that the language needs to be more precise.
Fire Chief David S. Cody proposed a litany of fee increases for a number of services provided by the fire/rescue and emergency services department. Chief Cody noted that the department charges for six things: residential and commercial plans review, residential inspections for homes being sold, different permits regulated by state law, open burning permits, site assessment research and ambulance transports.
The chief said that the department currently charges $50 for a plan review. The fee applies to any project, regardless of the size or complexity, whether it is a one-room bungalow or a hotel, he said.
An inspection fee of $50 is charged upon sale of a home, he said. However, the department does not charge for required quarterly inspections of places like nursing homes and hotels, inspections that can sometimes last several hours, he said.
He recommended charging $50 for inspection of residential care and treatment facilities, such as nursing homes, and $25 for all other facilities, such as medical clinics, that state law requires be inspected. He said other towns charge as much as four times that amount.
He also recommended charging hotels $25 to $100 per inspection, depending on the number of rooms in the building. Other towns, he said, charge a straight $100, regardless of the size.
Presently all permits—except for open burning—cost $50, Chief Cody said. He added that he is not looking to change the cost of any of those permits. He did propose charging $50 for yearly inspections of schools, daycare centers, liquor stores, summer camps, special events and marine fueling stations. None get charged at present, he said.
The largest fee increase Chief Cody proposed had to do with permit plan review and final inspection of commercial structures. Currently, the department charges a flat rate of $50 for any size commercial structure. The chief proposed changing that to a graduated scale of $100, $200 and $500, depending on the size of the building.
Chief Cody said that, compared to what fire departments in other towns charge, his recommendations are still low. He said the new fees are not expected to be a revenue generator for the town, but they will more closely reflect the time and effort put in by his department.
DNR Director Christopher Southwood requested increases to a number of fees at the town marinas. Mr. Southwood suggested increasing the fee for the dinghy racks at Monument Beach, the Pocasset River and Electric Avenue from $25 to $35. He proposed a similar increase for the kayak racks at Monument Beach, Pocasset River, Barlows Landing and Squeteague Harbor.
The fee for the dinghy dock at Monument Beach would stay at $100, but increase by $25 at Hen Cove and Barlows Landing Beach, he said. New fees that he proposed included abandoned or nonpermitted vessels which, depending on the type and size, would be either $50 or $100.
The board agreed unanimously to the suggested fee increases—except the recommended IT fee for the building department—all effective January 1, 2023.