Originally created 11/09/99

Panel OKs increasing fire fee



An Augusta Commission committee approved a 50 percent increase in fire-inspection fees Monday to help offset the fire department's increased operational expenses.

But part of the additional revenue will be used to hire an administrative assistant for the agency's fire inspection bureau.

The Public Safety Committee also voted to allow State Court Solicitor Sheryl Jolly to form a domestic-violence prosecution unit. It referred District Attorney Danny Craig's request to raise the beginning pay for assistant district attorneys in his office to City Administrator Randy Oliver and next year's budget process.

The fire prevention bureau reviews construction plans and blueprints for compliance with fire codes and issues permits. It inspects commercial establishments in Augusta and reinspects to ensure code violations have been corrected.

The fees have not been raised in 10 years, said Fire Chief Ronnie Few, who asked commissioners to approve the increases.

If approved by the full Augusta Commission on Nov. 16:

* Certificate of occupancy fees would go from $100 to $150.

* Construction permit fees for buildings less than 10,000 square feet would go from $100 to $150.

* Construction permit fees for buildings of more than 10,000 square feet would go from $100 and 1.5 cents per square foot to $150 and 4 cents per square foot.

Meanwhile, the committee approved Mrs. Jolly's plan to hire two attorneys and a certified investigator with fine money collected in connection with the Victim-Witness program.

The account currently has $542,000, and Mrs. Jolly expects it to grow by $500,000 a year, she said.

Mr. Craig wants to raise the beginning annual salary for prosecutors in his office by $6,000 to $40,338, which would cost the city $120,000 a year. Of seven judicial circuits responding to a 1998 survey, the Augusta Judicial Circuit ranked third from the bottom, according to data Mr. Craig supplied to commissioners Monday. The Atlanta Judicial Circuit ranked first with $46,329 a year.

In other action Monday, the city's Finance Committee voted to award a one-year contract to maintain city vehicles and equipment to Baker Support Services. The company was low bidder at $3.21 million. The company that has the contract now -- Tecom -- bid $3.5 million.

The committee also gave Harry Siddall, the city fleet manager, permission to classify hundreds of vehicles and pieces of equipment as surplus and auction them Dec. 5.

Mayor Bob Young noted that on the list to be sold was a 1948 aerial fire truck that he suggested should be donated to Augusta-Richmond County Museum.

Also Monday, the Engineering Services Committee approved a proposal from the city of Hephzibah to transfer the Henderson Road waterline to that city. The $100,000 balance of the line's cost to Augusta will be paid in water Augusta buys from Hephzibah in the future.

To reach the $100,000 figure, officials took into account $43,670 Augusta owes Hephzibah for a new 8-inch waterline constructed to serve Blythe Recreation Center on Georgia Highway 88 and water Augusta bought from Hephzibah this year.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylviaco@augustachronicle.com.