County to consider fire inspection fees

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County might cut a break on the cost of fire inspections for some buildings beginning next year.

The Board of Supervisors heard a request Tuesday by Fire Marshal Gerry Maiatico to implement a set of fees the county would charge certain businesses and other entities for annual inspections.

The local levies would replace the fees charged by the state. In most cases the county’s fees would be half those charged by the state. Maiatico has asked that the county implement the fees, if adopted, on Jan. 1 to give him time to educate the public about the new charges.

The fire marshal has not charged inspection fees since the county created the position in December 2011. In that time, Maiatico said he became familiar with the responsibilities and the time involved with inspections and that helped him create a fair set of fees.

“I wouldn’t certainly want to charge somebody $250 and it takes us 15 minutes to go into the daycare and conduct that inspection, and that’s kind of what we found,” Maiatico said.

The county could still generate approximately $2,700 from fees that would help fund the fire marshal’s office.

Businesses and entities affected include nightclubs, dormitories at private colleges, hospitals and facilities licensed by the Virginia Department of Social Services such as daycare and adult care centers.

The state wasn’t aware that the county was enforcing the fire safety regulations and conducting inspections and, as such, continued to charge the businesses and other facilities. Maiatico said the problem has been fixed and money returned.

“That being said, we have communicated with all affected facilities,” Maiatico said. “We haven’t received any objection. Most understand that if we didn’t do it, the state would and there is no negotiation on the state’s fee schedule so they would get that.”

The state charges at least $350-500 to inspect a nightclub depending on the occupancy load. By comparison, the county fire marshal would charge a $100 flat fee to inspect any nightclub. The state charges at least $150-$250 to inspect a dormitory at a private college. The county would charge $100 for dormitories. The county would not charge to inspect assembly areas in or attached to such dormitories. Colleges pay upward of $150 for such inspections. Hospitals pay upwards of $600 or more for an inspection. Under the county’s fee structure, hospitals would pay $300 regardless of how many beds they have. The county’s fees for facilities licensed by the Department of Social Services, such as daycare centers and nursing homes, would be half those charged by the state.

The largest affected facility, Christendom College, runs multiple dormitories. Maiatico said he would inspect assembly areas in the course of a dormitory inspection anyway and thus sees no reason to charge extra.

Supervisor Archie Fox asked if the fire marshal inspects industrial facilities. Maiatico said inspections of such facilities are not mandatory. The county does have a program through which firefighters conduct courtesy-level inspections of a different facility each month. Firefighters inspect churches, large stores and other facilities through the program, Maiatico said.

“We understand that the business is always worried about dollar loss, profit, employees, and fire extinguisher gets oversight, the exit light gets oversight,” Maiatico said. “There are no fees and fines imposed in that.”

The board would need to adopt an ordinance to the county code that would require operational permits for certain uses and to set inspection fees. As such, the county would need to hold a public hearing on the proposed ordinance. The county plans to hold the hearing in April.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or