Charter amendment stalls town impact fee

The Millville Volunteer Fire Company will have to wait at least until January for help from the town of Millville. A charter amendment needed to implement an impact fee to assist the fire company passed the State House but did not pass the Senate before the end of the session on June 30.

The General Assembly will return for a 45-day session, starting the second week of January.

“I apologize,” Mayor Gary Willey told fire company officials in attendance at Tuesday’s council meeting. “I didn’t think they were going to run out of time for us. It’s just postponed.”

Some confusion about why the bill was held up in the Senate emerged at Tuesday’s meeting but Fire Chief Graig Temple said, “I look forward to continue working with you. I thank the committee for your work.”

Temple appeared before council earlier this year, asking the town to implement impact fees to help support continuing services in the face of rapid growth and rising costs.

The Millville committee assigned to the issue recommended implementing an impact fee but couldn’t do so without the charter amendment, which stalled in the Senate.

The two proposed impact fees — one for fire and one for ambulance — would send .25 percent to .75 percent of the cost of any new construction to the fire company to be used for capital expenditures. Millville’s fire company has bought land in Clarksville and is considering building an updated building on Route 26, along with other annual expenses, Temple said.

“We’re experiencing growth today,” Temple said.

When the Village of Bear Trap Dunes opened about four years ago, fire calls into the company went from 204 to 277 annually, Temple said. Currently, the fire company responds to about 300 fire calls a year.

In five years, Temple expects that number to rise to as many as 400, and in 10 years, the company could receive in excess of 800 fire calls from the Millville, Ocean View and Clarksville regions, according to projections. That growth — which, Temple noted, will occur most heavily on Route 17 in Millville — will incur more cost, more replacement of equipment and the addition of equipment, the fire chief said.

A typical fire apparatus costs $475,000. A ladder truck cost the company $750,000 in 1999. An ambulance costs $185,000, Temple said. Portable radios used inside fires cost $3,000 each, gear worn in a fire costs $2,000 and the fire company buys about 10 new sets of gear annually. All of that, even with the gear and radios bought in bulk, is considered capital expenditure, meaning the fees would help cover those costs.

Town officials on Tuesday indicated that they would follow through with the committee’s recommendation once the charter amendment clears the Assembly — hopefully, early next year.