Council recently approved increases

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

No one from the public showed up to voice their opinion on the increases in city fees and rates during the public hearing recently held before the Orange Grove City Council meeting.

The increases include fees for water service, water taps, sewer taps, building, electrical and mechanical fees and lot mowing.

Moving into the regular meeting of the city council, members approved a series of new ordinances concerning the increased fees.

The lot-mowing fee is now $90 an hour, with a penalty fee of $75 if not paid within 30 days.

Officials said since the water disconnect and reconnect fees are low and do not reflect current market rates or cover the expenses which are incurred, a late payment fee of $10 will be in effect for payments received after the 15th day of each month.

Water will be disconnected on the 20th if payment has not been received.

According to the ordinance, there will also be a reconnection fee of $25, and a tampering fee of $100 will be assessed if water has been turned on without the consent of the city.

The council also approved an increase in the water and sewer tap fees. For the water tap fees, there is now a $350 pre-tap fee, $600 for a standard three-fourths inch tap, $600 plus cost for taps one inch or larger and an additional $500 fee for taps requiring a street cut.

Under the sewer tap fee portion of the ordinance, there will be a $350 pre-tap fee, a $600 easement tap fee and $1,100 fee for a tap requiring a street cut.

The council members also addressed current permit fees relating to contractors, building, plumbing, electrical, mechanical and certificate of occupancy, which they said do not reflect current market rates. Officials adopted a $50 contractor registration fee and a $15 building permit on the first $1,000 of construction, followed by $4 for each additional $1,000.

The fee for a plumbing permit is now $225. For electrical permits, there is now a $10 application fee and $30 per inspection minimum or four cents per square foot, whichever is greater.

For mechanical permit fees, there will be a $10 application fee and once again a $30 per inspection minimum or four cents per square foot, whichever is greater. There is also a certificate of occupancy fee now in effect at $25.

Mayor Seale Brand said that for people who are building or involved in structural work in the city, they could receive help from the city on filling out the applications.

"The bottom line is, we need to get the people we don't know anything about, and make sure that they know what they're doing," Brand said of the applications and fees required by the city.

With new growth in the area, the officials felt it was important to know who was out there, and whether they had the necessary permits, licenses and insurance to do the work properly.

"It gives a little bit more sense of security," Brand said.