One city fee may go up, an­other hike scrapped

First round for street per­mit fee in­crease gets city coun­cil’s ap­proval.

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - FRONT PAGE - BY SAM GALSKI STAFF WRITER

HA­ZLE­TON — City coun­cil ap­proved first read­ing of an or­di­nance that would hike the price of per­mit fees for ex­ca­vat­ing streets, but scrapped a sep­a­rate pro­posal that would’ve tripled the cost of a geo­graphic in­for­ma­tion sys­tem fee the city ap­plies to some of its per­mits and li­censes.

Coun­cil voted unan­i­mously Wed­nes­day to ap­prove first read­ing of an or­di­nance that would in­crease per­mit­ting and in­spec­tion fees for dis­turb­ing streets in Ha­zle­ton.

Hav­ing added a GIS doc­u­men­ta­tion fee to the price of some per­mits, signs and li­censes less than three months ago, coun­cil mem­bers voted 4-1 to re­ject a re­quest to in­crease that fee from $5 to $15.

Street cuts

Mayor Jeff Cusat and en­gi­neer­ing tech­ni­cian Alan Wuf­sus said the per­mit­ting and in­spec­tion fee in­creases that are paid mostly by util­ity com­pa­nies are in­tended to put the city in a bet­ter po­si­tion to re­pair dis­turbed streets.

“We want to make sure the fund­ing to main­tain those roads is ad­e­quate,” Cusat said.

The fee in­creases are in­cluded in an amended or­di­nance that coun­cil ap­proved 5-0 on first read­ing. The new fees hinge on coun­cil ap­prov­ing the or­di­nance on two more read­ings.

If fi­nal­ized by coun­cil, the cost for pro­cess­ing and is­su­ing an ex­ca­va­tion per­mit will in­crease from $100 to $150 for the first 50 square feet of a cut, open­ing or ex­ca­va­tion, and the fee for ev­ery 50-foot in­cre­ment there­after will re­main at $100, ac­cord­ing to Wuf­sus.

The in­spec­tion fee would in­crease from $50 to $65 while a GIS com­po­nent that is in­cluded in the street cutting or­di­nance would climb from $5 to $15. Per­mit fees for ex­ca­vat­ing newly con­structed streets would dou­ble from $400 to $800 for the first 50 feet and from $200 to $400 for each ad­di­tional 50-foot in­cre­ment.

A fi­nal amend­ment re­duces the num­ber of years that a street is con­sid­ered “newly con­structed,” from six years to five years.

Wuf­sus said the street cut or­di­nance will be un­der fur­ther re­view in 2019, as Cusat asked him to con­sider amend­ing it to re­quire full­width milling and paving of streets — rather than lim­it­ing re­pairs to only ar­eas that are dis­turbed.

Wilkes-Barre city re­quires full­width milling and paving, Wuf­sus said.

Ha­zle­ton of­fi­cials will also con­sider re­quir­ing full-width paving in sce­nar­ios that in­volve con­tin­u­ous cuts of 100 feet or more, or “checker­board” cuts, Wuf­sus said.

The city re­ceived $41,480 in rev­enue for street cut per­mit fees in 2017 and $32,750 so far this year, ac­cord­ing to li­cens­ing and per­mit of­fi­cials.

GIS fees

A sep­a­rate pro­posal that would in­crease GIS doc­u­men­ta­tion fees from $5 to $15 failed by a 4-1 vote.

Coun­cil­man Tony Colombo cast the lone “yes” vote.

“The fee might be a lit­tle too much at this point,” Coun­cil­man Jim Perry said.

Ad­min­is­tra­tors pitched the GIS fee in­crease just three months after coun­cil added the $5 fee to the price of build­ing and work per­mits, busi­ness sign per­mits, busi­ness per­mits, park­ing signs and health and restau­rant li­censes.

Coun­cil mem­bers re­jected the GIS fee in­crease at a time when most fees and taxes are ex­pected to in­crease. The city re­ceived court ap­proval this year for in­creas­ing the res­i­dent earned in­come tax and pre­sented a work­ing draft bud­get in Oc­to­ber that con­tains an op­tion for in­creas­ing prop­erty taxes by 5 per­cent. Ear­lier this year, coun­cil es­tab­lished mov­ing and yard sale per­mit fees while ad­min­is­tra­tors pushed for in­creas­ing the cost of work per­mits and called for im­ple­ment­ing a fee for main­tain­ing the storm wa­ter sys­tem.

Cusat said the in­creased GIS fee would’ve helped cover the cost of host­ing fees and up­dates for the web­based pro­gram.

Wuf­sus said the mayor wants to even­tu­ally is­sue iPads that would pro­vide in­stant ac­cess to the GIS pro­gram — and keep po­lice, fire and code en­force­ment in­formed of whether li­censes, per­mits or vi­o­la­tions are doc­u­mented for prop­er­ties in Ha­zle­ton.

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