by Joe Naiman
San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted to maintain the fire mitigation fee paid to fund fire department needs for new construction.
The supervisors’ 5-0 vote June 19 kept the fee for non-agricultural construction at 46 cents per square foot, which would be $920 for a 2,000-square-foot structure. The supervisors also accepted the Fire Mitigation Fee Review Committee’s annual report and found that the 26 participating fire agencies conform with the County Fire Mitigation Fee Ordinance for Fiscal Year 2010-11.
The county established the Fire Mitigation Fee Program in 1986 to provide funding for fire protection and emergency medical services in unincorporated communities such as Ramona. Although local fire agencies lack the legal authority to impose mitigation fees on new development, the county collects a fee from building permit applicants on behalf of 19 independent fire protection districts and seven county service areas with fire protection responsibility.
The mitigation fees are distributed quarterly to agency accounts and must be used for capital projects or to purchase firefighting equipment or supplies that will serve new developments.
The committee reviews the annual reports of the participating agencies to confirm that the improvements are necessary to serve new development. Committee members consist of two fire chiefs (currently Bill Paskle of the Alpine Fire Protection District and Tony Michel of the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District), one elected director of a fire protection district (Larry Jackman of the San Miguel Consolidated Fire Protection District), two staff members from county’s Department of Planning and Land Use (County Service Area analyst Pattie Tan and fire services program coordinator Susan Quasarano), and one representative each from the Building Industry Association (Matt Adams), the San Diego County Farm Bureau (Scott Lenz of DeLuz), and the county’s Planning Commission (Adam Day).
The County Fire Mitigation Fee Ordinance allows fee ceilings to be increased or decreased in proportion to changes in the Cost of Construction Index.
Ramona Municipal Water District received $48,636 of Fire Mitigation Fee Program money in Fiscal Year 2010-11. The San Diego County Regional Fire Authority, which includes the areas served by the San Pasqual and Intermountain volunteer fire departments, had $16,082 of mitigation fund revenue.
Because the money is used for capital improvements, it is not required to be spent in a particular fiscal year. Fiscal Year 2012-13 capital expenditures approved by the committee include $35,000 for the Ramona Municipal Water District’s debt service payback for fire station construction and $1.5 million for new fire station construction for the San Diego County Regional Fire Authority.