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Newport Beach City Council considers increasing fees for fire inspections

Newport Beach City Hall is essentially giving away fire-prevention inspection fees, staff say.

And as the City Council reviewed departmental fees Tuesday, which it does every few years, it saw that some “life safety services” fees are too low to recover costs.

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Newport charges $335 to inspect newly-built hotels or apartment complexes of three to 20 units, $444 for 21 to 50 units, and $580 from 51 units on up.

For the larger projects, that rate structure doesn’t reimburse staff time, said Community Development Director Seimone Jurjis.

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Instead, staff recommends a progressive model that starts with a $333 base fee and $9 for each unit. That would make the smaller projects start at $360 to $513 for a three-to-20 unit building. A 500-unit complex would cost $4,833 — more than eight times its current rate.

For annual operations permits inspections at larger businesses, such as high-volume restaurants, grocery stores and hotels, the city proposes a relatively small out-of-pocket increase, bringing the fee from $268 to $294, even though the inspection, if charged in full, would cost about $775.

Jurjis said staff doesn’t want to burden businesses that much and suggested the city subsidize the difference.

The high costs are related to firefighters making inspection calls in fully-outfitted trucks, as they’re still in standby in the event of a fire or medical emergency.

Other services that may increase: “basic life support” ambulance rides and basic paramedic responses that do not require transport to a hospital. Those could increase from $1,403 to $1,516 and $300 to $400, respectively.

The cost of “advanced life support” responses with ambulance transport would drop slightly, though, from $1,617 to $1,545.

Overall, city staff, the Finance Committee and the city’s fee study firm suggest 74 fees increase, 12 decrease, , six stay unchanged, 38 be eliminated and 33 be added to the fee schedule.

The proposed updates would increase revenue by about $180,000 per year.

A vote to make changes official will take place at a future meeting.

Park donations

In other business, the council voted unanimously to press pause on the donation program for park trees, benches and other fixtures.

The council agreed to the suspension without discussion.

Staff had requested the suspension to evaluate the program, which typically places the trees or fixtures as memorials underwritten by friends and families, because maintenance and management of the program requires “unanticipated large amounts of time” and some areas are becoming overcrowded with placements.

Trees and benches, with dedicatory plaques, are the most common donations that appear in parks, at beaches, on trails and along streets. Other amenities include drinking fountains, picnic tables and barbecues.

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