Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has nothing to do with Fresno fire impact fees. The New York congresswoman certainly doesn’t know anything about them.

That didn’t prevent her name being evoked in a city council debate about it.

The Fresno Fire Department says an increase in impact fees on new homes is needed to help fund new fire stations. But one of the proposed increases, which would amount to a 143% hike for a single-family home, was too much for council members to be comfortable with.

Weighing How to Pay for Fire Stations

Ultimately, after about an hour of discussion during Thursday’s council meeting, councilmembers delayed for at least a week any decision about the fee increase.

The impact single-family fee, which would leap from $779 to $1,853, would apply only to newly constructed residences.

Fire department officials say the most pressing need is a permanent fire station No. 18, west of Highway 99. It is currently at a temporary location inside a home development. Half of the $7 million needed for the permanent station would come from the 2019-20 city budget and the other half from the fee increase.

“The revenue is just not adequate,” Andrew Benelli, assistant public works director, said of the city’s available funds for future fire stations.

Mayor Lee Brand told the council that not approving the fee could jeopardize future growth. “It effectively puts a moratorium of growth west of 99,” he said.

City officials say at least two new stations are needed over the next five years if development continues at its current rate. The city recently purchased land for a second new station at Armstrong and Clinton avenues.

Residential Fees vs. Business Incentives

While most councilmembers said they understood the need for more fire stations, the 143% increase, as council president Paul Caprioglio said, was “startling.”

Miguel Arias and Esmeralda Soria also expressed unease with such a rate hike. Arias said it is unfair to charge new homeowners while the city waives such fees as business incentives for big distributions centers like those for Amazon and Ulta Beauty.

“What I’m struggling with is, at a time you are asking us to raise, essentially, the fire fees 150%, you’re also actively waiving fire fees from a select few businesses,” Arias said.

He pointed to waivers of police and fire service fees that Amazon received in 2017.

“All those fee waivers mean that we have to then raise fees 143% on new development. I’m struggling with that contradiction,” Arias said.

Deputy fire chief Ted Semonious said the new stations would be built as economically as possible, without many extravagances.

But What About AOC?

“You’re obviously obsessed with Congresswoman AOC.”Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria to colleague Garry Bredefeld

Councilman Garry Bredefeld defended the fee-waiver incentives, noting he supported a distribution center for The Gap during his first turn on the council in the late 1990s.

“I know there are a couple of my colleagues who support a congresswoman who got rid of 25,000 jobs in New York and proudly did so. They can do that. I’m not in favor of that,” Bredefeld said.

Bredefeld was referring to Ocasio-Cortez objecting to giving Amazon incentives when the company considered New York City as a location for its second headquarters.

Last week, Arias and Soria visited Ocasio-Cortez during a trip to Washington, DC. The congresswoman and the city became linked after the Fresno Grizzlies baseball team displayed a video on Memorial Day that compared Ocasio-Cortez to enemies of America.

The councilmembers apologized to Ocasio-Cortez and gave her some Grizzlies merchandise.

Soria defended her stance on business incentives, saying Bredefeld had misrepresented her views.

“I take issue with part of your comments,” Soria said to Bredefeld. “You’re obviously obsessed with Congresswoman AOC.”

The two started to talk over each other until Caprioglio intervened.

Soria left the council dais after the exchange. She missed a few council votes before returning.

3 Responses

  1. Nancy Flynn

    Say, perhaps if the City of Fresno had built the LOW BARRIER shelter for the homeless way back in 2014 the number of fire department calls to abandoned/vacant building fires would be fewer. The increase in number of Fire Department calls to deal with fires set by people who are trying to keep warm or cook a meal is staggering. Yet another ‘cost’ associated with the amount of tax dollars wasted by leaving the homeless unsheltered. Where are the statistics about those kinds of fires and the cost of extinguishing them? Shelter the homeless and there will be less of a need for more fire stations.

    Reply
  2. Dee

    First, the rate increase – tell me why that isnt being absorbed by the new home builders? The builders should absorb it. They pay more to build in Clovis already. Additionally, I met with Sorias office recently and tried to bring up all the revenue being lost from not enforcing laws and ordinances already in place. The amount of home owners that are not taking care of their yards or how about building additions or entire additional single family home on property and never pull permits or report to tax assessors office to adjust property taxes accordingly… I have all the information for them and not interested. Point is: we have revenue right in front of us. Just that apparently City Gov wants to be friends with everyone and not enforce penalties for known laws and ordinances.

    That flows right into the City Council should be actually in touch with their districts. District 1 (Soria) has numerous abandoned store fronts. Some for multiple years now. Filling these should be a priority. Business equals taxes paid to City. The property owners of industrial parks and retail lots etc should be regularly communicated with about future tenants or buyers and conditions of said property. They become too much for homeless to resist with being vacant and not attended to. I had a realtor explain that the property at West and Clinton (Walgreens previously) was owned by someone who owns several lots around town and basically could care less about the condition of his properties. To the point that he has no stress about getting a buyer. Why should he? Who is going to say something about the graffiti or trash or encampments? He says someone will buy sooner or later. I said something. I pushed for people to do their job. And he cleaned up that property.
    I’m disheartened by Sorias lack of sincere efforts regarding her district. The entire district looks abandoned. Painting streets for beautification is simply show. She claims to be in touch with her neighborhoods yet I live here and most these people dont know who she is or even how to do anything about issues on their streets. Only after I complained to her office about not seeing updates on her site about current projects etc since 2014 did some information get posted. Backtracking anyone? The homeless is not a shelter issue. I have found and read odeas that have worked in other cities etc but nobody wanted to hear.

    Clovis is known for strict rules laws etc regarding business and building. Residential contractors have to include a water reclamation facility per so many square miles or however they decide. Seems common sense Fire Dept needs could fit right in that consideration as well. It costs more to do business in Clovis, but they know Clovis Government is strict and is very supportive to businesses. Benefits are all inclusive when there are clear and defined rules and repercussions. Fresno not so much. It’s like a couple of our team needs ritalin to focus and stop interrupting the class.

    I’m so upset at the complete mishandling of our city I have little to no hope of it changing. I’ve never been embarrassed of being from Fresno till these last 3 years.
    Some mature logical reasonable adults need to take the city back from the kids running it right now. They say s*** rolls down hill so if the city is a joke and you need only drive around here a little to see how bad our town looks – then the crap came from the top and that’s where you start to have effective change. Something is to be said about how Clovis runs things. Hence the obvious visual differences just to start. Even a young person would who wants to make money is going to be open for ideas and learning. Not Fresno.

    So the million dollar question? Where do we get money for Police or Fire or even Dispatchers? Or for seniors or our courts and more?

    Well it only took a simple Google search. I found the government site for Cities to go to for ways to gain money for the benefit of their city. Grants Incentives and more. THERE ARE GRANTS FOR Policing – victims of crimes- juvenile justice and criminal organizations to the amount of over $2 BILLION dollars given. How much did Fresno apply for? And recently we were slammed publicly for our dispatchers being so short staffed that we are not meeting the criteria for response to call time. Yet there was a grant with deadline just passed for money that could be used for dispatchers. Why isnt there a person who has the grant writing job? So while we get the concerned looks as they look into the camera while shaking hands with next person to lend to the campaign saying they stand with the people of Fresno and understand the plight- I’m barely able to stomach knowing they dont even do the basics to save face here. They know and we know that we are a pebble to their path of higher office and dont plan to have roots here.

    Resources ignored. Gross abuse of funds and political weight for personal gain. Recall flight to Washington to overkill on the apology already give subject already squashed but Soria and Arias insisted? How much did that trip cost? What about the statement on internet that Soria managed to squeeze a meeting with potential allie/supporter? Ingenious with outside the box thinking. Like dressing up extortion as some sort of Peace initiative with gang members? Wow? So, out of touch yet so arrogant as to come up with that and actually follow through with putting it on the table?!?!?! Either they believe us all to be complete morons or it’s simply a brand new color in the sky everyday for some of our council members. How nice for them.

    Reply

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