Landlords claim city increased fees while decreasing services

Group feels city created gratuitous fees; Council says they must cover costs

By Kyle Carrozza, Staff Writer, The Times

CoatesvilleLogo-copyCOATESVILLE – A group of landlords voiced grievances about City Council’s electrical, plumbing, and rental fee increases at Monday night’s City Council meeting.

With some more than doubling this past January, the landlords also believe that services have decreased.

“The primary fee that everyone…feels is unreasonable is that for you to register a rental unit, there is a license fee per unit, and it was $40. If they’d increased it to 50 or something, nobody would be here, but they went to 100,” said Paul Evans, who owns houses on Hope Ave.

He also said that the $40 fee also used to include inspections for when renters moved out, but now the city charges an additional $40 for inspections.

Landlords said that the fees are particularly high with hot water heaters. With electrical and plumbing permits, a plumbing inspection fee, plumbing connection fee, and the cost of a required third party inspection, landlords end up having to spend about $300, not including the heater itself or parts and labor to install it.

“You are trying to generate revenue to offset the deficit; that’s my opinion,” said landlord David DiSimone.

City Council members disagreed, saying that the fees are necessary to compensate for inspection and labor costs.

“Let’s be real here for a minute; with all these little fees and everything, that’s not going to do anything about closing a gap,” responded City Manager Kirby Hudson.

City Council President David Collins said that the landlords may not be looking at all of the costs that the city needs to cover when inspecting electrical and plumbing systems.

“The fees have gone up, and the quality and number of services has also increased,” he said, pointing out that council recently hired another codes inspector so that the city could complete jobs more quickly. “There’s other costs that roll into that [inspecting houses], such as all kinds back into the union and other administrative costs.”

Hudson, along with a City Council member, plans on meeting with the landlords to examine the fees and see if they can be decreased.

City Council members also continued the discussion of street closure fees on Monday.

After concluding that $600 was too much last month, members voted on a $300 Monday night but once again could not agree.

Monday’s plan proposed charging $300 to any person or organization that wanted to close the street with the only exceptions being the city’s Christmas Parade, Halloween Parade, and Celebrate Coatesville.

Still, some City Council members thought the fee was too high, while others wanted to do away with street closures altogether.

Council Member Ed Simpson, who said that events utilizing street closures often lead to theft or vandalism, believes that people should not be allowed to close the streets, and instead, should use the parks.

Collins also said that he would like to see more people utilizing parks.

“If they have it in the park, they could have it for a fraction of the cost of closing down the block and perhaps inconveniencing their neighbor because not everybody on the block wants to go along with it,” he said.

City Council will vote on disallowing all street closures at the next meeting.

During the public comment portion of the evening, Tom Audette presented a plan to get the Boy Scouts to cooperate with City Council on making improvements around the city.

Audette proposed the idea of having a ‘Scout Master’s Minute’ once a month. During that time, the scout master would summarize what the Boy Scouts have done around the city in the past month as well as taking requests from council members and residents as to what they should work on next.

“It adds a little something positive to the meeting,” he said. “We want to help clean up the city.”

Hudson agreed to work with Audette to incorporate the idea into meetings.

Monday night’s meeting closed with the approval of a number of upcoming special events.

The city’s Halloween Parade will take place Oct. 26 at 4-6pm. The parade will go from 3rd to 6th Ave.

The Tree Lighting Ceremony will take place Dec. 6 at 6pm.

The Christmas Parade and annual 5k will be on Dec. 7 from 7am-2pm.

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