Palm Coast City Council will Reconsider 10% Commercial Hauling Franchise Fee

Citizen comments at last night’s council meeting caused council members to reconsider a franchise fee (tax) over the city manager’s objections.

Palm Coast, Florida – December 3, 2008 – Citizens turned out last night to object to a proposed 10% franchise fee that is about to be applied to commercial refuse haulers. What the council was considering was a reduction in the application fee, bonding requirements, and insurance requirements for Construction & Debris (C&D) haulers. These haulers had objected to the original February ’08 code instituting the fees, saying that they do not haul the toxic wastes typical of a commercial waste hauler. Commissioners voted to reduce the bonding, insurance, and application fee requirements for C&D haulers but were unable to address the 10% franchise fee to which residents expressed their objections.
The franchise fee is essentially a 10% surcharge tax on the haulers. Representatives from the Flagler Home Builders Association and the Chamber of Commerce spoke out against the fee (tax), indicating that it would simply be passed onto the businesses being served and then to their customers (you and me). It would further act as a deterrent to new business and job creation at a critical time for the local economy. Their comments drew audible support from the audience.
City manager Landon spoke strongly for the franchise fee, noting that haulers put a lot of stress on our local roads, increasing maintenance costs. Without naming them directly, he rebuked the Home Builders Association, saying he was "trying to work with people who are now turning on me." He missed the point that the objection was to the 10% franchise fee. Landon also reminded the Home Builders Association that "we reduced the building permit application and inspection fees." What he neglected to mention was the reduction was not voluntary. It was required by law. The city had been overcharging builders for years, an act so egregious I wrote an article and follow-up commentary about it.
Landon’s annoyance was apparent. The issue was not going his way but his arguments were spurious:
  • Claims regarding road maintenance cost increases were not substantiated. In fact, the city allegedly has a $3 million surplus in its road resurfacing account. The franchise fee revenue would go to the general fund.
  • No one could provide an estimate of the revenue expected from the franchise fee.
  • Landon’s claim about helping builders by reducing permitting fees was disingenuous. The city has collected over $7 million dollars (including accumulated interest) above levels authorized by state law.
  • Landon pointed out that the city had cut residents’ property taxes and that the city needed new sources of revenue. I doubt the city budget has been cut by as much as the budget of the average city resident.
  • His argument that the fee was in line with what other cities have done was shallow. He won the Palm Coast Data retention battle by thinking outside the box, not by being a follower. But if he wants to be a follower, how about suggesting a moratorium on impact fees such as was recently passed by the City of Bunnell.
I think Jim Landon is an excellent city manager. I also think he is sometimes strong minded to the point of being stubborn. He should certainly not be taking credit for reducing the building permit application fees. He’s done enough positive things for which he has been properly recognized. A sage once told me "If your actions speak for themselves, don’t interrupt."
In the end, the council members did the right thing. They approved the reduction of C&D requirements. Then they instructed the city manager to place the 10% franchise fee on the next workshop agenda for consideration. Way to go council members. The next workshop should be interesting.
1 reply
  1. George Meegan
    George Meegan says:

    Can’t you see the strings

    The only original thought Jim had was to send out his resume to Palm Coast. After that he has been "a puppet on strings" doing as he has been told, taking credit when he does not get caught and feeling hurt when he can’t pull the wool over our eyes. The wizard sits behind the curtain not wanting to be detected. If you look closely, you will see the strings that lead up to the puppet master. Maybe it’s time for another original thought, as the performance adjustment to his salary is probably not coming after this debalcle. More reason for a strong mayor and skip the $165,000 puppet cost. Klick you heals, Palm Coast, and wake up from the nightmare.

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