Golfers, builders, dump-goers — last call to sound off on fee increases
STAMFORD - If you’re a golfer or a ball player, carry your purchases home from stores in plastic bags, own a house with a well, or make trips to the city dump, now’s your chance to speak up.
Members of the Board of Representatives considering fees for such services have scheduled public hearings this week and next. The hearings allow residents to weigh in just before board committees vote on the fees.
Committee votes typically weigh heavily in final considerations by the full board, which will meet Feb. 4 to decide whether to enact the cost increases.
All meetings will be on the fourth floor of the Stamford Government Center, 888 Washington Blvd.
At 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, the board’s Parks & Recreation Committee will hold two public hearings in the Republican Caucus Room. One is to gather public comment on increasing permit fees for the city’s two golf courses, and another will be on charges for use of ball fields.
The Stamford Golf Commission, which runs the E. Gaynor Brennan course on Stillwater Road, and the Stamford Golf Authority, which runs the Sterling Farms course on Newfield Avenue, have proposed raising the cost of a resident permit to a flat $50 a year.
The courses now charge $35 for a permit purchased before April 1 and $40 for one purchased later.
Directors of the self-funding courses wrote to the board to say the increases are needed for several reasons - “bad weather for the last two years, a general decline in golf rounds played nationally over the last several years, and escalating fixed costs such as employee health care, liability insurance and utilities.”
An increase in the permit fee “is a less painful way” to generate the needed revenue than increasing green fees, “which affect golfers each round,” the letter states. Permit fees in Greenwich, Norwalk, Westport and Fairfield are higher than in Stamford, according to the letter.
Similar town comparisons were submitted with a proposal from the Recreation Services Department to raise fees for using ball fields for tournaments.
The department is asking the Board of Representatives to approve a $150 non-refundable deposit for a field. The charge now is $100.
For corporations, they are requesting an increase from $250 to $300, and another that would jump from $100 to $150 for each additional field.
Recreation officials also seek $25 fee increases for lighting fields, plus a new charge of $50 per hour for tournaments that exceed eight hours.
In a letter to lawmakers, recreation officials said Norwalk charges a $350 tournament fee per field, markedly more than the $250 Stamford now charges corporations and the $100 for nonprofits. Greenwich charges $250 for the first two hours of a tournament, plus $125 for each additional hour, the letter states.
For those interested in the plastic bag ban, the board’s Legislative & Rules Committee will hold a hearing at the same time and date — 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22. That hearing will be in the Democratic Caucus Room.
The ban was passed in October and takes effect May 3, when residents must begin bringing reusable tote bags to supermarkets, food trucks, delis, farmers’ markets, restaurants, and drug, liquor, home-improvement and department stores. Those and other retail establishments will no longer give out plastic take-home bags.
Anyone without a tote bag will be charged 10 cents for each paper bag they need to carry their purchases home.
At issue is who should be exempt from the paper-bag charge. Recipients of government food-assistance programs are exempt, but an amendment was added to include recipients of Medicaid, Medicare and COBRA — health-insurance coverage for people who lose their jobs.
Representatives then decided to drop the three exemptions, saying Medicare and COBRA recipients likely have the means to obtain their own tote bags, and most recipients of Medicaid, a program for low-income seniors and disabled persons, receive food assistance and are already exempt from the paper-bag charge.
The topic of the hearing is whether to exempt only food-assistance recipients.
The Health Department has proposed new fees and increases in existing fees, for which members of the board’s Public Health Committee will hold a hearing at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 31 in the Democratic Caucus Room.
The department now charges nothing when its employees review plans for multi-unit dwellings. Health officials have proposed that the time-consuming reviews now come with charges that include $70 for a building with three apartments, up to $325 for a building with 40 units or more.
The proposals are far-ranging. The $70 now charged for an addition would rise to $100, for example. The charge for plan review of a septic-system repair would increase from $70 to $125, and a permit for construction or repair of a well would rise from $50 to $100.
The Community Nursing Program has never charged for tuberculosis tests, children’s physicals, adult flu vaccinations and other services. But, because of reductions in state aid, the department is proposing a sliding fee schedule for some services. That would include raising the fee for a polio shot, for instance, from $45 to $55, and adding a $15 administration fee.
Department officials say testing costs have increased significantly, so they propose charging for some — $10 for tick identification, $30 to submit a tick to the state for testing, $90 to transmit an animal for rabies testing, and $100 to test soil for a new septic system.
Members of the Operations Committee will hold two public hearings when they meet at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 29 in the Republican Caucus Room.
One hearing is on building permit fees; the other is on charges to dump at the Harborview Avenue transfer station.
Representatives want to leave the fee for a commercial building permit at $16.50 for each $1,000 of the estimated cost of a project, up to $1 million. After that, the fee would increase to $25 per $1,000.
The fee for residential permits would remain at $13 per $1,000.
Representatives have said they want large developers to bear more of the burden of the fee increase.
Representatives debated how to increase tipping fees at the dump. Now the city charges $88 a ton for garbage, though residents get the first 200 pounds for free.
The free amount would remain, but the proposal is to increase the fee to $25 above what it costs the city to have the material hauled away.
The haul-away price changes, but now it’s $71 a ton. So residents who exceed the free limit would pay $96 a ton.