Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Fire inspection fees dropped for low-risk facilities

To ease the burden on mom and pop establishments, Largo is nixing mandatory fire inspection fees for low-risk facilities like offices, barber shops and markets.

Before, whether they had problems or not, most low-risk businesses had to pay from $35 to $75 for periodic fire inspections.

Tuesday, city commissioners unanimously approved code changes that end those fees. Commissioner Harriet Crozier was absent.

"It just seemed unfair," said Largo Fire Marshal Edward Mullins. "It just didn't seem right at this time."

Low-risk business owners won't be off the hook entirely. If inspectors find safety problems at low-risk buildings on their first visits, business owners won't be penalized, even if businesses need to be re-inspected. But if owners fail to fix problems, they will face fines. If safety issues aren't fixed after that, fines will be steeper. And businesses could be closed until dangerous violations are remedied.

High-risk structures, such as assisted living facilities, day care centers and hospitals, won't get the same break. The state requires annual inspections for most of them. And they tend to be more complex and time consuming, Chief Mike Wallace said.

Two years ago, fire officials said Largo's low-hazard buildings weren't getting enough attention, averaging just one inspection every six years. Largo Fire Rescue aimed to increase inspections to once every couple of years.

To do so, the department beefed up its fire inspection team, hiring four civilian inspectors. And the city began charging low-risk businesses for initial inspections to cover costs of increased inspections.

But the fees never fully covered costs and caused ill will, Mullins said.

Business owners would complain that they hadn't seen inspectors in years and all of a sudden they were getting bills, he said.

And city leaders got an earful, too, Mayor Pat Gerard and Vice Mayor Gigi Arntzen said.

"We're trying to encourage business development," Gerard said. "Why do we want to make them all mad?"

Last year, the city collected about $83,000 in inspection fees.

The department isn't sure how much revenue it will lose. There's no way to determine how many businesses will require additional inspections, fire officials say.

In other action, city commissioners approved changes to its comprehensive plan, which outlines the type of development allowed in each part of the city. The plan includes initiatives to develop stronger neighborhoods, be more environmentally friendly, provide quality services and support the city's long-term land-use goals.

Fast facts

Fire inspections

New policies for fire inspection fees for low-risk facilities:

Initial inspection: No charge

Followup inspection/violations fixed: No charge

Followup inspection/violations not fixed: $75 or $112.50 depending on the size of the building

Third inspection/violations not fixed: $100 or $150 depending on the size of the building.

Fire inspection fees dropped for low-risk facilities 12/02/08 [Last modified: Friday, December 5, 2008 8:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Comedian and activist Dick Gregory dies at 84

    Nation

    The comedian Dick Gregory rose to national prominence in the early 1960s as a black satirist whose audacious style of humor was biting, subversive and topical, mostly centered on current events, politics and above all, racial tensions. His trademark was the searing punchline.

    Dick Gregory, a comedian, activist and author, died Saturday. [Tribune News Service, 2011]
  2. Winter Haven police investigating armed robbery at Dollar General

    Crime

    WINTER HAVEN — Police are investigating an armed robbery Friday night of a Dollar General store on W Lake Ruby Drive.

  3. Rowdies settle for draw at home

    Soccer

    ST. PETERSBURG — The good news for the Rowdies is that they still haven't lost a game at Al Lang Stadium since late April. The bad news is they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against Ottawa on Saturday night in front of 6,710 sweaty fans.

  4. Bats come to life, but Rays' freefall continues (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG —The six runs seemed like a ton, just the second time the Rays had scored that many in a game during their numbing two-plus-weeks stretch of offensive impotency, and amazingly, the first time at the Trop in nearly two months.

    Lucas Duda connects for a two-run home run in the sixth, getting the Rays within 7-5. A Logan Morrison home run in the ninth made it 7-6, but Tampa Bay couldn’t complete the comeback.
  5. 'Free speech rally' cut short after massive counterprotest

    Nation

    BOSTON — Thousands of demonstrators chanting anti-Nazi slogans converged Saturday on downtown Boston in a boisterous repudiation of white nationalism, dwarfing a small group of conservatives who cut short their planned "free speech rally" a week after a gathering of hate groups led to bloodshed in Virginia.

    Thousands of people march against a “free speech rally” planned Saturday in Boston. About 40,000 people were in attendance.