Church assembly fire inspections
and EMT fees discussed by Council

November 19, 1999
Santa Paula City Council
An annual assembly fire inspection fee that would apply to Santa Paula's 30-plus churches brought forth plenty of fire and brimstone from a local pastor who objected to the proposal at the City Council fee study workshop held Nov. 3rd. And, a proposed annual subscription charge for fire department Emergency Medical Technician response - or a per call cost of over $600 for non-subscribers - was sharply criticized by one councilman. Of the assembly fire inspection fee, Fire Chief Paul Skeels said the “Question here is whether or not churches should be charged.”An attempt in the past to do so was delayed to await the municipal fee study.Proposed fees for churches would be based on capacity: 50 to 100 persons would garner an inspection fee of $164, 151-300 would cost $234, the fee for 301 to 500 would be $286 and over 500 persons would cost $336.A letter was sent to area churches which “Provoked a response from ministers,” and moved the issue into the arena of being a “political decision,” noted Chief Skeels.Jerry Totty, Pastor of the Abundant Life Church, was among the speakers who objected, noting churches are non-profit organizations that “help the people of the community spiritually. . .other Ventura County cities don't have this fee,” and the city should follow the Uniform Fire Code for such actions.“Our congregation is not that large,” and the annual fire inspection fee would impose a financial hardship on the church, the Rev. Totty added.Citizens pay taxes for such basic services and imposing a fee on fire inspections would represent double taxation: “We already pay taxes [for such basic services] and charging for an inspection would mean we pay them again. . .it's inappropriate to pay again,” the Rev. Totty said.
Another pastor noted that although churches would be charged on a per person capacity for the structure, many congregations are smaller than what they can hold and would be paying a cost not based on actual attendance.Councilman Don Johnson suggested that the fee proposal to charge assembly fee for churches be brought back after further study.One fire department item banished from consideration was a proposal to charge a subscription fee for Emergency Medical Technician emergency response: if the person treated by EMTs is a non-subscriber, they would be charged for the service. . .the “unit price” for such a service call was booked at $632.81.“This is one item I absolutely disagree with,” said Johnson. “People already pay enough for [private provider] ambulance service.”The next workshop is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 22 at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall.

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