Crow Wing County commissioners approved a new fee schedule but urged staff members to take another look at changes.
Increases were noted to the highway department. They included a $10 charge for the sign trailer, used by organizations when they have special events along county roads such as parades or foot races. In the past the trailer has been available at no charge. A new cost was a $100 minimum utility permit fee to place utilities or obstructions in the right-of-way on county roads.
Tim Bray, highway engineer, submitted a number of photos of utility projects left with torn-up road sides. Bray said that’s what the county is trying to avoid.
Other cost increases included residential entrance permit from $350 to $500 or a commercial entrance permit from $500 to $750.
New fees included an annual moving permit of $50 for oversize loads on county highways. The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) charges a fee for oversize loads and the county has not. The county was proposing a $50 annual moving permit and a $10 single moving permit.
Commissioner Paul Thiede said the fee may be unnecessary as MnDOT charges a fee for oversize load permits and notifies the county of those trips.
“I think you should look into that,” Thiede said.
Bray said the department was looking to cover administrative costs but he would look into it and get back to the board.
Commissioner Doug Houge said people are already paying taxes and administrative costs are part of the job.
“Now we are trying to nickle and dime some of these things,” Houge said, adding he didn’t want to start a precedence where every time the county tries to reduce costs it is then trying to capture that money in fees.
“I just sense we might be headed that way the last couple of years,” Houge said. Houge cautioned staff about using administrative costs as an excuse to create a new fee.
Commissioner Paul Koering questioned the need for a $75 fee for people who put in alarm systems. The funds go to the sheriff’s department. Administrator Tim Houle said that is something the sheriff’s department is working on a review of the alarm ordinance.
One consideration, Houle said, is the hole removing those fees would create in the budget as the fees are used to offset operational costs. Koering said if there are places with numerous false alarms per year it may make more sense for them to be billed more than the people who have an alarm system but have never had a false alarm.
“We need to justify our actions to the public and why we are collecting this,” Koering said.
Auditor-Treasure Laureen Borden said this coming year her office is planning a thorough review of fees in general, why they are being charged and what administrative services are being accounted for with an analysis of employee time to truly capture the cost to back up the fees.