Moses Lake council to consider fire impact fees and more Tuesday

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MOSES LAKE – The Moses Lake City Council will meet tonight to discuss a number of issues, including fire impact fees that have sparked tension between builders and the fire department, and renewal of its waste collection contract, among other topics.

A copy of the agenda and full proposals for each agenda item can be found at cityofml.com on the “Agenda Center.”

Fire impact fees would impose a cost on new development to support increased fire service needs. The fees would be based on a rate structure set on a sliding scale depending on the type of development, whether residential, commercial, or otherwise.

Fire Chief Brett Bastian has advocated for implementation of the fee, saying that the department’s current facilities weren’t keeping up with growth, and that new development could put a strain on the system.

Revenue generated from the fee would go to mitigate the “impact” of providing fire fighting services to that new development, hence the term impact fees. The fee schedule, which has been debated since September, was based on a study commissioned by the city to determine how often the MLFD is called to different types of structures.

Critics, particularly in the home building industry, have argued that the impact fees would stunt growth in the community by raising the cost of new construction and pricing buyers out of the home market. Instead, developers have advocated for the city to look for alternative methods of raising revenue or cutting costs, including potentially disbanding the city fire department and receiving service from a fire district.

Fire impact fees have been contended for years, as noted by Councilmember Daryl Jackson at previous council meetings.

“We’ve been discussing this for 17 years that I’m aware of,” Jackson said at a meeting last November. “I advocated for impact fees in ‘94, ‘95, ‘96, ‘97, and I was one of seven that did that. I’m ashamed that we didn’t do something back then.”

The controversial fee’s most recent iteration has been considered three times since September 2019.

Each time, the issue was tabled without a decision from the council, which asked instead for more time to consider the fee and possible modifications or alternatives. At the most recent such presentation, on Nov. 26, 2019, the council indicated it wanted to wait to make a decision until it could seek input from the new city manager.

At the request of the council, a Fire Impact Fee Sub-committee has met three times since November to discuss the viability of a fire impact fee or any alternatives.

Mayor Karen Liebrecht, who is on the sub-committee, said the three meetings were “very productive and very good input” but declined to respond to questions regarding the committee’s recommendations or whether they would change her position on the topic.

“I would rather save that for after that’s been shared with the entire council,” Liebrecht said. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying anything in advance.”

Liebrecht also said she couldn’t speak on whether she believed the council was more likely to come to a decision Tuesday.

Also on the agenda, the city will consider renewing its waste collection contract with Moses Lake-based Lakeside Disposal, after rejecting a proposal by competitor Consolidated Disposal Services in October. If approved, the contract would lower the cost of service for the city, as well as potentially cutting rates for residential and commercial customers.

Other agenda items include a vote on terms of lease agreements on the Moses Lake Municipal Airport and on the surplussing of city property, as well as a discussion regarding an annexation petition.

The Moses Lake City Council meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the council chambers, located in the same building as the city museum and art center.

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