Watch the February 22, 2022 Gardner MA City Council meeting on YouTube or visit our Gardner MA City Council page. CLICK HERE.
The subject of fee increases will come up again at a meeting of the whole in March with input for the Gardner MA City Council.
Will the Gardner MA City Council Increase Fees and shut off the valves of Growth, Progress, and Community Improvement or would it be a much- needed course correction?
The Gardner MA City Council is not moving hastily on the matter. A meeting of the committee as a whole will gather additional input in March regarding Fire Department, Building Department, and other fee schedules before increasing them. We have a section going in to more detail on the pros and cons of fee increases. CLICK HERE.
More News – Approved Items of Interest
The City Council rescinded its order to spend free cash for a new police department vehicle as the funds can come instead from the American Rescue Plan funds. Downtown Gardner trash containers will be replaced at a cost of $15,000. Money for the athletic fields at the high school was not immediately approved as councilors wanted more information on the project. The Witches Wardrobe was granted a second-hand goods license and now also has the first fortune teller license in the Chair City. The Ordinance increasing fines dramatically for not clearing snow in Downtown was sent to a second printing, making it a done deal.
Much Disagreement over S. Graves Lawsuit
Councilor James Boone explained that the scope of the S. Graves lawsuit against the City of Gardner concerns desired information about heating unit coils allegedly damaged by questionable city water. Boone asked why zero information is being released and why doesn’t anybody question why there are no answers. Boone motioned to ask the City Solicitor why it’s a conflict of interest to represent the City – it was defeated 4-6. The overall motion to transfer $5000 to the S Graves lawsuit account passed 6-4. Issues with Gardner water causing premature failure of heating coils continues to this day as evidenced by disgruntled residents who comment in news on Social Media.
Other Matters Before the Gardner City Council
During a brief joint convention of the City Council and School Committee, Eric Commodore was appointed to a 4 year term on the Monty Tech School Committee.
It was disputed whether the other appointment on the meeting agenda, that of an unexpired 2 term was actually a valid vacancy. The recording of the meeting was corrupted at this point so we don’t have details on how that vote turned out. Play the video, CLICK HERE
More News on the Fees
Growth Formula or Fees Too Low?
Some would argue that when things are going your way, you don’t mess with the formula. For years, the City of Gardner’s winning recipe kept various Fire Department and Building Department fees below the actual cost of the work involved, sometimes far below. Packet from last meeting with examples of other towns
In fact, when the matter was brought before the City Council, examples of fees charged by other area communities demonstrably proved that Gardner was charging far lower fees than it could. Documents proved that the fees simply were not covering the cost of the work. Gardner was subsidizing almost every building built and every home improvement made. The Chair City had its highest year ever of building permits recently with over one thousand in the recent year.
Unprecedented growth with the Subsidy
Whether it was a major contributing cause or not, the fact is the City of Gardner did have unprecedented growth during the period of this fee subsidy. The Chair City had highest total number of building permits of any year, ever.
…Many announcements of businesses choosing Gardner. …Government leaders choosing Gardner in approving grants. …The City of Gardner had begun a snowball of success with the valves of Growth, Progress, and Community Improvement seemingly wide open with a very good future ahead of the Chair City.
Argument for Increasing fees
The argument for increasing fees was this: The business desiring the service should pay for it, not the citizens of the city. And the cost of services provided by the Fire and Building Departments was not being covered by the fees charged.
Department budgets had to be increased to cover the costs. And similarly, the homeowner desiring the renovation should pay fully for the cost involved in inspections etc., which could be garnered through increased fees. Lastly, Gardner was so far below what other area communities are currently charging that the City’s success shouldn’t be affected negatively if it simply brought fees up to par.
Argument for Leaving Fees alone and continuing subsidy
The argument against increasing fees included this: The cost of subsidizing fees impacting business was far outweighed by the huge benefit to the City of Gardner MA from getting more business in a community which had been losing it before.
And the argument against increasing fees for homeowners is that when a property is improved, its assessment goes up. Those who choose not to improve or who can’t afford to improve get the benefit when their taxes are lowered, such as when the tax rate dropped substantially this year. Arguably, citizens who didn’t improve had a net financial benefit by the City incentifying others to improve with the lower fees. Arguably, the lower fees charged business was more attractive policy than some believed.
The Future will be the Judge
Time will tell whether higher fees impact negatively the amount of business or industry attracted to Gardner. History will be the judge of whether increasing fees to homeowners negatively affects the number of those who choose to improve. The future will be the judge of whether subsidizing fees for the Building and Fire Departments was pure genius that demonstrably helped Gardner, or whether the City was just flushing money down the drain.