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Gainesville aims to boost utility fees
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Gainesville City Council is poised to vote to change assorted fees related to stream monitoring, water and sewer testing and taps, among other utility services.

The council discussed the matter in a work session Thursday morning with Kelly Randall, Public Utilities director, and Tina Wetherford, finance manager for the Public Utilities Department.

The ordinance, which came up during a City Council retreat in February, proposes to impose the changes in two stages, with one set becoming effective Sept. 1 and others on Jan. 1.

"We just set (the fees) at what our actual costs (are)," Randall said. "There’s no profit margin on any sort of fees. And we periodically need to do this."

The city last changed the fees in 2002, Wetherford said.

"If we’re going up on fees for the sake of revenue, I’d be opposed to that," Councilman George Wangemann said. "Being that we’re charging for the true cost of the service, I don’t have a problem with that."

Randall said much discussion has centered around whether to have a monthly fee for properties inside the city to maintain a fire sprinkler system.

"We left it as it was. There is not (such a fee)," he said.

"There are advantages to living inside the city," said Mayor Myrtle Figueras.

At Councilman Bob Hamrick’s behest, the council changed wording on stream monitoring fees.

The ordinance now proposes to charge at least $400 for monitoring a stream spill of up to 10,000 gallons and at least $4,500 for monitoring bigger spills. The law also includes a schedule of fees for testing for a range of contaminates, including fecal coliform and phosphorus.

Previously, the ordinance set $400 and $4,500 as fixed amounts.

In agreeing with the change, Randall said, "Some spills are quite a bit more difficult than others."

In other business, Debbie Jones, Gainesville’s city marshal, discussed proposed changes to Gainesville’s alcoholic beverage ordinances, making it possible for license holders to apply to sell alcohol off premises.

"Anyone wishing to cater an event must possess a ... license to sell (alcohol) by the drink, and we’ve made that applicable to out-of-jurisdiction applicants," she said.

The ordinance will "exclude anybody who doesn’t have a pouring license," Jones added. "... It will really simplify it too for the people that have pouring (licenses) because their people will already have server permits."

Previously, city officials considered tweaking the law to allow anyone with a license to sell or serve to apply for the catering permit.

Jones said the ordinance also was tweaked to "specifically prohibit the issuance of an event permit at the (Georgia) Mountains Center or (Gainesville) Civic Center."

The utility fees ordinance is set to go before City Council on first reading and the alcohol beverages ordinance on final reading at the council’s July 21 meeting.