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Public safety fees for nonresidents a no-go

Out-of-town residents will not have to pay user fees for public safety services in Crystal River, the City Council decided Monday night.

Staffers began researching the issue when the council learned that about 90 percent of vehicle accidents in the city involve nonresidents, City Attorney Anthony Perrone said.

The council felt there must be some way to recoup the cost of emergency services.

In a report to council at Monday's meeting, Perrone said charging out-of-state residents would violate the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits discriminating against people from other states, he said.

So, any user fee system could charge Florida residents - including those in Crystal River - but would not apply to people who live in other states.

"It was too complicated," Perrone said.

Above all, council members said they did not want to have to charge city residents user fees.

Perrone said he knows of at least one town in Florida that charges fees for such services, and that others had tried to persuade him that it would be a good move for Crystal River.

"My test isn't, "Is anybody else in Florida doing it?' " he said. "My test is, "Is it right?' "

The fees would have applied to Crystal River's fire and police services, and would have charged at-fault parties the cost of investigation.

In other council news:

+ The council will allow Danny Berenberg and Bob Kovacevich from giftcounsel.com to give a presentation at the next council meeting about a potential feasibility study for the Crystal River Walk project.

The two joined local Kings Bay advocate Don Hess for a pre-meeting workshop Monday. Hess said he would like to begin collecting the $50,000 needed for the study from private investors, but would only do so if the council could assure those funds would go to the Crystal River Walk. Council members said they couldn't make that kind of commitment yet.

+ Council members discussed what qualifications they will advise Public Administrative Associates to look for in a new city manager. They decided they want candidates with previous city manager experience, but they don't necessarily have to live in the city. The salary would start at $70,000.

+ In his report to the council, Perrone said that, after arbitration, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners has asked to settle a lawsuit regarding pay raises for about $12,814. The council will vote on a settlement at the next meeting.

+ Mayor Ron Kitchen announced that he will not seek re-election. He said that after serving two terms, he felt it was time to move on.

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