In a continuing effort to bring Kingsport's fees and charges in line with its sister cities, city staff have been taking an across-the-board look at Kingsport's schedule of fees and charges. A fee committee began last fall to see whether the fees should be raised, lowered or left alone. Kingsport has not had any major changes to its fees in eight years.
In December, the BMA voted to increase certain fees in the Building Department and raise court costs to $50. In February, city leaders raised rental fees at the Civic Auditorium, Allandale Mansion and the Kingsport Renaissance Center and eliminated the $20 library card fee for non-city residents.
Last month, the BMA approved changes to the chapter in the city code dealing with utilities, including residential and commercial water and sewer tap fees, fire hydrant installation fees, and residential pump relocation fees.
Some of the proposed changes include:
•Depending on the size of the water line, some tap fees are increasing $360 to $2,300.
•Fire hydrant installation outside the city is increasing from $2,000 to $2,500.
•Sewer tap fees for new residences are going from $500 to $900. Other sewer tap fees for homes and businesses outside the city are increasing by $700.
•The cost to relocate a Kingsport-owned residential pump for city residents is increasing by $2,500; for county residents the increase is $3,900.
The recommended changes take effect July 1.
"We've not increased (the fees) for a period of time to the point where they are lagging the actual service cost," said Public Works Director Ryan McReynolds. "As we see our sister cities, we felt we needed to be fair to the existing customers and raise those to at least cover the service costs while staying below the benchmarks of most of our sister cities."
During its discussions on whether or not to increase fees, city officials benchmarked the fees against those from Johnson City, Morristown and Hawkins County.
"We're just keeping a pulse on what everybody else is doing," McReynolds said.
The BMA has recognized that Kingsport needs more houses in the $150,000 to $300,000 range. To increase its housing stock, city leaders annexed 161 acres off Rock Springs Road, where a 300-plus housing development called The Edinburgh is in the works.
Kingsport also plans to annex properties leading up to this development in order to open up more developable land for future neighborhoods.
McReynolds said local developers are aware of the pending fee increases, but he said with the city's materials agreement the developers should see a positive impact.
Last year the BMA approved a materials agreement program, which allows the city to provide developers with the main line water and sewer materials (pipes, manholes and fire hydrants) for free, to be used with housing developments within the city. Developers post a cash bond and receive the money back once the work is complete.
The dollar savings to developers ranges from $750 to $1,500 per lot. McReynolds said the program is an incentive for developers to build within the city limits. Johnson City has a similar program in place.
"Our tap fees are becoming more competitive with neighboring cities, and the incentive is now on the materials side, rather than the tap fees side," said McReynolds. "It's gearing the incentive to the right customer. If we desire an increase in residential development, this incentive hits the developer of the land. It discourages sprawl and encourages infill growth."