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The Salmon City Council met in special session Monday morning, April 24, to review the suggested changes in fees for city facilities and services. The list of recommendations was prepared by the city’s Finance Committee Team and presented to the council by Team Chairman Jim Bockelman.

The first category that brought discussion revolved around the increase of fees for animal licenses. Finance Team recommendations for the Kennel license fee was an increase from $25 to $50 per year. A $10 dollar increase in tags was suggested for dogs not spayed or neutered bringing that fee to $25 a year. A $5 increase for spayed or neutered dogs brought the tag cost to $10 a year.

The change that inspired discussion was an addition which would require a $75 a year license fee for dogs of the Pit Bull breed or dogs cross bred with a Pit Bull. The Team said other cities have such special fees and Councilman Ken Hill reported that 80 percent of the hard to place dogs at the Animal Shelter are of that breed.

Councilman Fred Waidely said he saw no rationale in the Pit Bull addition since there are currently no city ordinances regarding the breed. He said even though the shelter may have trouble finding homes for them that does not involve an additional cost to the city which is the premise on which fee structures are based. He also questioned where money from a newly established fee would go.

Bockelman said the team had commented that if a fee that high were to be established it would deter tag purchases by owners of Pit Bulls.

Waidely also received confirmation that the discount for senior citizens buying a license for their dogs is still in effect.

City Clerk Mary Benton explained that by law the city cannot make a profit on fees. She said any and all fees have to be justified in terms of a validated cost to the city.

In the absence of any city ordinances about the Pit Bull breed the council voted on a motion to remove the reference from the fee structure. The vote was three in favor, Bockelman, Jesse Bender and Waidely and three opposed, Ken Hill, Jim Baker and Jim Kluesner. Mayor Leo Marshall broke the tie by voting to remove the license fee for Pit Bulls from the proposed list.

It has been recommended that fees for use of the City Park Pavilions be raised from $25 for the small Pavilion to $50, and from $50 for the large Pavilion to $75. The $75 fee will also apply to the Island Park and Town Square Pavilions. Finance Director Amy Fealko offered the fee increase justification that most reservations are for weekend gatherings and that requires overtime hours for city cleanup crews.

The council decided on a four to two vote that the Passport Booklets available at the Sacajawea Center are not a fee but rather a product related promotion and therefore should not be included in the city’s fee structure list. Councilmen Baker and Kluesner cast the no votes.

The topic of charging county residents more, or city residents less, for city services such as use of the swimming pool brought strong objections from Councilman Waidely. He said city revenues come from a vast number of places including property taxes paid by people who own property in the city and live in the county. He said those people can’t vote in city elections but they are supporting the city in many, many ways and they are paying city taxes.

Waidely said the proposed discount fees for “city residents only” are creating a situation which is not good. “We’re alienating a lot of people and I’ve heard many, many negative comments about how the city council’s doing business concerning the county residents. They are highly dissatisfied with us.” He mentioned the grant application written by county resident Mary Cerise, Salmon Arts Council Executive Director, on behalf of the city for repair of the City Hall elevator and carpet replacement. Waidely said that sort of support from people who happen to be county residents goes on all the time. He said, “To discriminate against them I think is a total travesty. We need to just completely forget about doing that kind of stuff. Let’s set one price for everybody and leave it that way.”

Bender said the topic has been a hot issue within the Finance Team as well, and similar feelings have been expressed.

Bockelman suggested a motion be made to eliminate the city discounts from the proposed fee list. He agreed with Waidely that it’s an issue of tripping over dollars to pick up dimes and said the topic should be placed on a council meeting agenda to determine a clear direction for the future. Waidely moved to eliminate mention of a city discount from the fee structure list and Bender seconded the motion. The motion passed on a four to two vote with Baker and Kluesner voting against it.

A motion to change the age designation of “children” at the swimming pool was passed. The current age range is from 5 to 12 years of age. The council vote changed the definition of children to from 5 to 17 years of age. Rationale behind the change was that 13 year olds are not of legal working age therefore should not have to pay more to swim. The motion was seconded and passed on a vote of four to two. Baker and Kluesner voted against it. Kluesner explained that his no votes are because city residents have to pay city and county taxes and county residents should have to pay higher fees for city services.

Another fee increase that was suggested came from the Public Works Committee Team as per a request from the City Public Works Department Superintendent Mickey Verbeck. Public Works Team Chairman Waidely pointed out the hookup fees are a one-time expense and are the “buy in” to the systems that have been built by other taxpayers. Verbeck explained that installation fees are separate from hookup fees and are site specific fees related to costs of installation. Research into what other cities of similar size charge for utility hookups shows the Salmon rate is below average.

The council unanimously approved the recommendation to increase hookup fees from $1,000 to $2,000 each for connection to the city water and sewer systems.

There will be a public hearing on the recommended fee increases during the May 16 meeting of the Salmon City Council. The list of recommendations will be published in the newspaper prior to the hearing.

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