REPORTER FILE PHOTO | The Shelter Island Town Board resumed its ongoing discussions on raising user fees.
The Town Board returned to the topic of raising certain user fees at its Tuesday work session, an issue the board has discussed for the last several weeks.
Philosophical differences were aired, especially when it came to raising building fees on garages, with Councilman Paul Shepherd noting that in his view too many roadblocks are put before tax payers that will be counter productive in the long run.
“I don’t like when we look at an improvement as an encumbrance,” Mr. Shepherd said at one point, referring to imposing charges on homeowners to build a garage. “We should encourage people to enhance the value of their property.”
Last week the board heard recommendations from Building Inspector William Banks about user fees on new garage construction. Following up on that Tuesday, Councilman Peter Reich suggested a flat building department fee on garages of $250 plus 25 cents on every square foot over 1,000 square feet. Currently there’s a charge of 25 cents a square foot on new garage construction and no flat fee.
Later the discussion turned to how much time and effort building department employees would expend examining new garages, but Mr. Shepherd said that was missing the point. “You’re looking at it strictly from the revenue side,” he said.
Councilwoman Christine Lewis made the point that money has to be found somewhere. “You have to understand that taxes are the revenue steam which drive services to a town,” Ms. Lewis said.
“I have to understand that” Mr. Shepherd said. “Well, thank you, because I was unaware of that.”
Further, he said the item under discussion wasn’t a tax issue but a fee issue.
Later in the discussion, Mr. Shepherd said, with some resignation, “As taxpayers we all know we’re going to get milked. I’m just saying, ‘A little respect. Warm your hands a little.’”
Councilwoman Lewis and Supervisor Jim Dougherty were in basic agreement with Mr. Reich’s proposal on garage fees and Mr. Shepherd seemed, with reluctance, to sign off on the idea. Councilman Ed Brown was absent.
On other agenda items Supervisor Dougherty reported that The Peconic Land Trust had turned down an offer to take over the so-called “open ” area of the Paard Hill horse farm and the town, which also has an opportunity to take stewardship of the open space, will turn it down as well. Since there’s no public access allowed in the sale agreement for Paard Hill, there’s no benefit to the town to take on the responsibilities of maintenance and insurance.
By agreement there can be no commercial entity at Paard Hill, and no subdivision of the property.
It boils down to “reduction in usage with no expense to the town,” Mr. Dougherty said.
Highway Department Superintendent Jay Card told the board that grinding services were needed for vegetative material, including tree stumps, brush and leaf piles brought to the Recycling Center. The Town Board convened a special meeting Tuesday to pass a resolution authorizing the department to seek bids from companies for the grinding services to run through 2015 with an option to extend the contract through 2016.