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Date of Issue: March 01, 2007

Impact fees win delegation's vote

Legislation to increase impact fees on new construction in the West Manatee Fire Rescue District won its first vote Feb. 21.

The Manatee County Legislative Delegation voted unanimously for the bill during a meeting in Tallahassee.

"That's really good news for us," said Brett Pollock, the district's deputy chief.

The delegation, made up of state Sens. Mike Bennett, Lisa Carlton and Arthenia Joyner and Reps. Bill Galvano, Ron Reagan, Keith Fitzgerald and Frank Peterman also unanimously voted on legislation transferring authority of some underwater land from the state to the Manatee County Port Authority, reauthorizing rules for the North River Fire District, and merging the Cedar Hammock and Whitfield fire districts.

The WMFR bill would allow fees that apply to new construction and go to pay for new facilities and equipment. Past impact fee funds, for example, went to the purchase of thermal-imaging equipment to detect heat sources and laptop computers to improve operations with 911 dispatches.

The current impact fee schedule, set in 1985, is $100 for residential construction and $200 for the first 5,000 square feet of commercial construction.

The revised schedule would be $500 for new residential construction and $980 for 5,000 square feet of new commercial construction. Additional commercial construction would be charged 25 cents per square foot, after the bill is approved.

District voters on Nov. 7, 2006, backed the change in impact fees. The ballot question asked, "Shall West Manatee Fire & Rescue District be allowed to increase impact fees on new construction only, to pay for new equipment and facilities as necessary to accommodate new growth?"

At last week's delegation meeting, there was no discussion on the legislation since the local bills had been reviewed at a previous meeting.

"This meeting was just for vote," said Cheryl Ennis, Bennett's chief legislative aide.

With the delegation's support, the WMFR measure will be introduced when the legislative session begins March 6, then assigned to a House committee for review and recommendation.

To be put into effect, the measure needs the vote of the Legislature and the signature of the governor. In the Senate, local bills such as the WMFR impact fees legislation can only be voted up or down and objections can only be raised by the district's senator.