David's Blog

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Finding Fault with City Fees

Relative to Duluth’s population, few Duluthians own businesses and/or commercial buildings. Consequently, few Duluthians are aware of the Duluth City Council’s intention to charge business owners a fire inspection fee. To date, fire safety inspections have been standard procedure – at no cost to the business owner. If you are not a business owner, your interest in this issue may be casual at best.

For the first time this year, the Duluth Fire Department is issuing three-year operational permits to each of Duluth’s 1,200 businesses that are subject to the inspections. 400 businesses will be inspected annually. To obtain the permit, the business owner must pay $220 to $2,000 for the Fire Department safety inspection. This inspection and the corresponding fee are in addition to the business’ safety inspections required by the business insurance provider. Business owners will now have to pay three times (taxes, fees and insurance premiums) for what may be duplicative inspections.

The new inspection fee will be a burdensome, additional cost to business owners. These business owners believe the City is using the fee to help address its financial challenges. Moreover, these business owners feel they already give the City enough of their money in the form of property taxes. They feel they are taking on an inordinate burden as their taxes rise while this concurrent fee is charged. Many of these business owners are members of the Duluth Chamber of Commerce, which explains why the Chamber plans to challenge the City’s planned implementation of the inspection fee. As an advocate for our members, we are compelled to contest this double-dipping by the City. Our members feel the inspection is already being paid in the form of commercial property taxes. We agree.

The Chamber contends that business owners should not be required to pay multiple times for overlapping inspections. City Councilor Tim Little agrees. He plans to sponsor an amendment to a city ordinance adopted last fall that would allow a business owner to hire the Fire Department or a private firm to perform the inspections. Representatives from the Chamber will be contacting city councilors to encourage them to eliminate the inspection fee. I encourage you to join us in contesting the City’s inspection fee.

You can contact the city councilors by emailing: council@ci.duluth.mn.us

posted by David Ross at

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