Wood County fire fee bills going out soon

PARKERSBURG — The Wood County Fire Services Board is getting ready to mail the new fire fee bills and begin to deal with those who haven’t paid yet.

”It is about time for our 2018 fire fee mailing,” Board Chairman Kim Marshall said.

The new bills will be mailed Jan. 15 and due back by April 15.

The fire fee is assessed annually at 2 cents per square foot for single family residences and apartments and 3 cents per square foot on industrial properties. A $3,000 cap is in place for industrial sites that would be over $3,000. Any structure determined by the Wood County assessor to be uninhabitable will be assessed a $5 fee.

Non-commercial outbuildings, such as a detached garage or a large barn and a couple of sheds, are charged at a flat rate of $5, regardless of the number of additional buildings.

Nonprofits are charged a reduced rate of 1.25 cents per square foot. Residents on the Homestead Exemption will be charged the 1.25 cents per square foot rate as well.

Last year, due to problems getting the billing system set up as well as making adjustments, the county commission suspended the late fee penalties until 2018.

”Now we are handling the penalties from last year,” Marshall said. ”Now that it is 2018, the penalties will apply.

”The commissioners only forgave the penalties for the year it was not paid. Now it is delinquent and it will go back into the penalty phase.”

Marshall said they will be pursuing as many of the delinquent fees as they are able to do so.

There are around 3,200 fire fee tickets that have not been paid yet, totaling around $107,000, for both residential and commercial property. If they are successful in Wood County Magistrate Court in getting a judgment, the board can also charge the individual for legal fees.

”In 2018, if you are delinquent for 2016/2017 your bill will have two years of billing,” Marshall said. ”If your fire fee is $25, your bill for 2018 will be $50.

”If it is not paid by April 15, you will now pay a penalty on the $50.”

To date, the board has collected 91 percent of the original billing, which is $1,075,300.

The board is planning to publish the names of those who haven’t paid yet on the Wood County Firefighters Association website and the Facebook page either later this week or early next week.

If the fee goes unpaid, people who have to have response from the fire department can be charged for the run.

”If they didn’t pay their 2016/2017 fire fee, now that it is 2018 and a department is called to the residence the department, per the ordinance, can invoice $500 for the call,” Marshall said.

Marshall wants to remind people it is now a new billing cycle.

They have dealt with addressing errors and other errors as well as adjust the fee assessment to make the bills easier to calculate.

”We have made every effort over the last 12 months to correct all assessor records, sheriff’s records and all addresses we could,” Marshall said. ”It is the board’s recommendation that there will be no further forgiveness of penalties.”

They hired a part-time clerk to get as many corrections as they could.

”This year, we are just going to do one mailing,” Marshall said. ”We have gone with one due date, regardless of residential or commercial.”

The board also made corrections to the bills to cut down on confusion.

”There will be a full letter of explanation in with this bill,” Marshall said.

The letter will cover the basic fee schedule, process for each department to submit invoices to county clerk for payment, the due date, penalties and the $500 billing for calls to unpaid residences and buildings.

The letter also discusses how no fire fee dollars go directly to departments, but are put in accounts managed by the county clerk which the departments can request money from with proper approval.

If people have questions or corrections regarding the fire fee bill, call the fire board at 304-424-1991 and someone will get back to them.

”This billing will not be perfect, but it will be way better than what it was the first time,” Marshall said.