Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

City Won't Assess Fees to Fight Building Fires

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

City Won't Assess Fees to Fight Building Fires

Article excerpt

PASSAIC -- The City Council on Tuesday night adopted a revised ordinance that allows the Fire Department to collect so-called emergency response fees after car accidents, hazardous materials spills and other minor emergencies -- but not structure fires.

After a public outcry, Passaic Mayor Alex D. Blanco introduced a compromise amendment that exempted all structure fires from the ordinance. The vote was 6-0, with Councilman Chaim Munk absent.

Numerous residents appeared at the council meeting to complain that assessing a fee to put out structure fires was a form of double taxation.

"I think this is a really, really bad idea," said Robert Sparrow, a city resident.

Another resident, Rafael Garcia, complained that taxes were rising and residents were being charged more for services. Garcia, who holds down two jobs to support his family, said he had no choice but to pay.

"How are we going to live in Passaic?" he asked.

Blanco's amendment exempting all structure fires from the ordinance introduced a major change that is likely to deaden the financial impact of the law. The city initially proposed to shield the owners of one-, two-, and three-family dwellings from having to pay emergency response fees for fires, but that raised concerns that the new law might discriminate against the owners of commercial and apartment buildings.

The council voted 6-0 to incorporate Blanco's amendment into the proposed ordinance.

"This seems more fair to all taxpayers," Blanco said. "We need the money. Right now, there's not enough state aid coming down from Trenton, and we have to think outside of the box."

Passaic, which is trying to raise revenue without raising taxes, has proposed allowing the Fire Department to collect fees for responding to a wide range of emergencies, including car accidents, hazardous material spills and water rescues. …

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