Passed amendment allows Millville impact fee

In a special session last week scheduled to appoint judges, Sen. George Bunting (D-20th) and the state senate passed an amendment to Millville’s charter, allowing the town to implement impact fees.

Bunting said earlier this week that the amendment he introduced in the Senate was important for the Millville Volunteer Fire Company and the town as it moves toward its growth-filled future. About 3,000 homes are currently slated for lands off Route 17 alone and the town does not yet have a police department or public water, and the fire company is already stressed by development.

“The town is going to need a myriad of things as the development occurs,” Bunting said.

Rep. Gerald Hocker (R — 38th) introduced the bill in the House in June but the session ended before it went through the Senate. “If we waited until January (the next regular session) it could possibly cost the town money,” Bunting said.

“It is time critical,” added MVFC Chief Graig Temple, citing the same reason as Bunting. “Luckily, they saw that.”

Temple petitioned Millville and Ocean View councils earlier this summer for help with capital purchases. The company, which runs on a $1.2 million annual operational budget, plans to build a new Atlantic Avenue fire house and will ultimately need new heavy equipment because of growth in the area, which consistently stresses the company’s services.

In those council meetings earlier this summer, Temple suggested that town officials establish impact fees on new development to support the company — which by state law serves both towns in its fire district.

Ocean View Town Council recently approved an ordinance establishing a grant fund built from taxes on new development, which the MVFC and other emergency responders can apply for at the end of the year. Although the Millville company is the state-mandated first fire and ambulance responder to the town, it will compete with other emergency organizations for that money — a fact that left Temple a bit dissatisfied.

Millville is expected to introduce an impact fee to support the company soon but the details of the fee or when it might be introduced are not yet available. Tuesday’s town council agenda did not mention the potential impact fee.

“We haven’t really decided how we’re going to do this yet,” Millville Mayor Tim Droney said, adding that a council committee had already drawn up an impact fee before the charter amendment stalled its progress. “It’s going to be some sort of an impact fee. We should have one with all this building going on. But it’s not finalized yet what we’re going to do.”

Despite Millville’s uncertainty, Temple seemed relieved.

“We still have not been privy to the whole policy,” Temple said, but “hopefully, they’ll be able to step up and enact something.”

Temple said that the fire company currently receives an average of 300 fire calls each year. When builders finished Bear Trap in Ocean View in 2001, the number of annual calls increased from about 200 to 270. Within five years, fire company officials have predicted that the company will receive 350 to 400 calls each year. Within 10 years, they predict that number will be in excess of 800 calls each year, demanding new equipment including trucks that can cost more of $750,000. The Millville company paid $750,000 for its ladder truck in 1999 and $475,000 for the “typical fire apparatus,” or the engine.

Company officials consider the trucks capital purchases and would use impact fee or grant money to buy those, as well as pay for the proposed new Atlantic Avenue house.

“This is the cost of doing business,” Temple said. “We’re going to be here for the long haul(and) we do need assistance.”