City, UF to discuss fire fees
On July 16, the Gainesville City Commission is scheduled to approve how much property owners will have to pay in new fees. City residents, businesses, non-profits -- even places of worship -- will have to pay an annual fee for fire rescue services. But government buildings -- like the university of florida -- are exempt. And city officials say that's not fair.
"For many years, the city has provided fire services to university property without compensation," said Paul Folkers, assistant city manager.
And city officials say it's time for a change.
In a letter to UF President Bernie Machen this week, Gainesville Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan called it a "critical need." She says the city spends almost $3 million per year on fire services to the UF campus. And now, it's time to pay up.
Folkers says the letter is a move to get the ball rolling, and let UF officials know: "that it's fair and appropriate to seek compensations for the university of florida as one of the largest beneficiaries of the fire services that the city provides," he said.
Services like answering a call to this spill in one of the chemistry labs a few weeks ago.
And though the letter is dated June 30, it hasn't hit the hands of the intended recipient just yet. UF spokesperson Janine Sikes says President Machen and his secretary are out of town and haven't seen the letter firsthand. Still, she says, it's a request Machen will address as soon as he gets back.
"Certainly, we're open to looking at our options," Sikes said.
Options that city officials want to work out as soon as possible.
"Once we receive that response, we'll certainly share that with the commission and seek further direction," Folkers said.
If they can work something out with UF, commissioners want to phase in the new fees over a period of four years. But with the university facing severe budget restraints, it's not clear yet how they would come up with the money.
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