Fire district floats fees to recover inspection costs | SierraSun.com

Fire district floats fees to recover inspection costs

Julie Brown
Sierra Sun

The North Tahoe Fire Protection District will soon be charging a cost-recovery fee for inspection services and plan reviews.

Inspecting events, from weddings to fairs, to make sure their set up is in compliance with fire code or checking up on a fire alarm system are among the duties the fire district will now charge for.

“It’s all stuff that we’ve already been doing,” said Battalion Chief Dave Ruben. “It just allows us to recover the costs for things that are kind of discretionary.”

Included in the cost recovery ordinance, which was approved by the board of directors at their April meeting, are fees for the mandated fire protection district’s pre-approval process many construction projects must now undergo.

Since April 14, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is requiring a stamp of approval from the local fire districts on permit applications before they can start the construction project’s review. The initial review of new construction on behalf of the local fire agencies intends to reinforce defensible space policies and ensure compliance with fire codes.

For a commercial pre-approval, the fire district will charge $244. For residential projects, the district will charge $162.

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This type of ordinance is nothing new for regional fire districts, Ruben said, noting several other districts in the area already have such cost-recovery fees in place.

“[These inspections] are not something that tax dollars necessarily should benefit,” Ruben said. “Those are things above and beyond normal fire prevention.”

The new rates will be effective on May 19, the first Monday after the 30-day period since the ordinance was approved at the board’s meeting.

Executive Director Pat Davison of the Contractors Association of Truckee Tahoe said the rates were fair for the services the fire district provides.

“We didn’t really have a question with the fees once we saw the background information,” Davison said.

The contractors association, however, requested that Placer County eliminate their $85 fee for plan check and inspection to avoid duplicate fees. Prior to the fire district’s cost-recovery ordinance, the county charged for defensible space and emergency access inspections.

“To us, it was not really a new action,” Davison said. “It’s just a different party now is going to look at it.”

Placer County Chief Building Official confirmed the county would lift the $85 fire-safe fee within the North Tahoe Protection District boundaries on May 19.

“Now, since they’re going to be doing most of the projects, they’ll just include that under their umbrella,” Martino said. “There’s no need for us to charge that fee.”

SIDEBAR: Pre-approval workshop

The North Tahoe Fire Protection District, working with the Nevada Fire Safe Council, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and the Contractors Association of Truckee Tahoe, is hosting a workshop to inform the building industry about the new fire agency pre-approval policy.

Since April 14, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is now requiring a pre-approval stamp from the local fire districts on permit applications for most construction projects before the application can be reviewed. The initial review intends to reinforce defensible space, emergency access and fire code policies on construction projects.

Prior to this policy, the fire district’s approval came towards the end of the process and often led to conflict, said Battalion Chief Dave Ruben. This will hopefully ease the process.

“The goal was to avoid bouncing people around,” Ruben said. “It will streamline the process.”

At the workshop, which will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 6 at the Kings Beach Fire Station, officials will review what documents and plans need to be submitted, defensible space policy, emergency access and road width, among other issues.

A separate workshop was held yesterday for arborists, chippers and other people who are on-the-ground performing defensible space clearing to review regulations, rules and policy.

“So everyone was up to speed,” Ruben said.