In its ongoing quest to balance a tight budget, the Glendale City Council has endorsed charges for previously free services--including emergency medical calls to the Fire Department--and trimmed $2 million from an allocation to expand the Civic Auditorium.
The fees are part of the city's drive to recover the cost of services that directly benefit individuals.
New charges approved Tuesday include a $62 fee for repeat inspections of building and safety violations and a $75 fee for design approval of some new business signs.
The council also introduced an ordinance, expected to be approved next week, that would impose a $75 fee for emergency medical calls.
The Fire Department responds to more than 5,000 life-threatening calls for medical assistance annually. This has become the most frequent request for service, said Fire Chief Richard Hinz.
City Manager David Ramsay said the fees are part of the city's "work smarter" program to achieve greater efficiency and generate income from local services.
All city departments were asked earlier this year to think of ways to make up for a dwindling share of property tax revenues and declines in sales-tax receipts and other sources stemming from the depressed economy.
The new fees were approved in principle earlier this year when the council adopted a $317-million budget for 1993-94. The added fees are expected to generate $260,000 in revenue toward the city's $80-million general fund budget, which supports such traditional services as police and fire protection and street maintenance, said Brian Butler, finance director.
However, because some revenues, such as from sales taxes, already have fallen short of projections for the year, the council on Tuesday also cut $2 million from a $14.2-million allocation to renovate and expand the aging Civic Auditorium, built in 1938.
The action will indefinitely postpone plans to add community meeting rooms to the auditorium at 1401 N. Verdugo Road, a popular site for dinner dances, trade shows and other community events. Council members asked that restoration of the funds be given priority consideration in future budget deliberations.
In seeking the medical fee for Fire Department calls, Hinz said the department over the years has been called on to respond to more medical emergencies. He said that because Glendale has 12 engine companies citywide, fire personnel usually arrive ahead of any of the four privately operated ambulances assigned to the city.
The Fire Department "is the only agency in the emergency medical loop (ambulance, hospital and other emergency services) that doesn't receive compensation," Hinz said, adding that other cities, such as Pasadena and Los Angeles, impose such charges. The fire chief also said the department serves a growing number of non-residents, such as traffic accident victims passing through the city.
"The Fire Department was never designed to provide this kind of heavy response," Hinz said. "It is just something that has evolved over the years."
Almost all of the responses involve the use of heavy-duty fire trucks, which adds to wear-and-tear on equipment and operating expenses, he said.
The fees, to be billed by the Fire Department, are to be discretionary, based on the type and extent of services rendered. Some charges could be altered or waived by the fire chief if several members of the same family are treated, for example, or if no treatment is required.
The new fees are expected to raise about $175,000 annually and cover only a portion of the cost of rendering emergency services, estimated at about $1 million a year, officials said.
As a part of its request, the department asked that $75,000 of the new revenues generated be allocated to purchase automatic defibrillator equipment used to restore the heart rhythm of cardiac arrest victims. Hinz said 10 other departments in the county already use the machines, which have proved highly successful in saving lives in the critical early minutes of a heart attack.
The emergency ordinance, which would go into effect immediately, will be brought back before the council Tuesday for approval.
The code violation fee approved Tuesday allows the city to charge owners of property with building and safety violations for repeated inspections as a result of failure to comply. Those fees, which go into effect in 30 days, are expected to generate $84,000 a year in revenue.
A sign review fee of $75 authorized Tuesday was reduced by the council--from $150 proposed by the city planning staff--after several business representatives protested that the recommended fee was too high.
The council last month adopted a new sign ordinance allowing greater flexibility in the type and design of business signs permitted. A sign program review was established for previously prohibited signs, such as those on second floors of high-rise buildings or those protruding over sidewalks.
Businesses seeking to erect the non-traditional signs will be required to pay the new $75 fee. Officials have no estimate on expected revenues from the ordinance or the cost of the program.