EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 21, 2013

Salem considers fee increases

Many fees haven't changed in 20 years

By Doug Ireland

---- — SALEM — Fees for some licenses and permits may be increasing, the first time they have been raised in years.

Selectmen will hold a public hearing tonight at Town Hall on a proposal to amend its engineering, health office and senior services fees. Their meeting starts at 7 p.m.

These increases would raise annual licensing fees as of next year for many restaurants and also salvage yards.

Some businesses, including tattoo parlors and massage therapy businesses, would be exempt from the hikes, according to Selectmen’s Chairman Everett McBride Jr.

But the licensing fee for massage therapists would double — from $50 to $100 a year. Tattoo artists would still pay $100 a year.

At the Ingram Senior Center, where there has been a surge in nonresident membership, the annual fee for out-of-town members would go from $35 to $40.

Increased demand for center services and rising expenses prompted the need to raise the fee for nonresidents, Senior Services Director Patti Drelick said.

The fee was raised this summer from $25 to $35 to help offset costs, but it wasn’t enough. Salem residents, and former residents who lived in town for more than five years, are exempt from paying a fee.

Two weeks ago, the increase in membership at the center prompted selectmen to cap the number of nonresident members at 400. Drelick said the center’s 2,569 members includes 381 nonresidents.

Town Manager Keith Hickey said the decision to increase fees came after realizing it was becoming costly to provide the services. The goal is not to profit from these services, just to cover expenses, he said.

“We hadn’t adjusted some of these fees in over 20 years,” Hickey said. “We are looking to recover the costs we are incurring through providing these services.

Town staff, including Health Officer Brian Lockard, compared the fees the town currently charges with those assessed in other communities.

“Our fee schedule was a little off,” Lockard said.

Lockard’s duties include inspecting and licensing nearly 200 restaurants and other businesses in town that serve food, including supermarkets.

While fees for most restaurants would rise as of April 13, Lockard found the $500 fee charged to the 13 with more than 200 seats was in line with eateries in other towns.

But the fees for smaller restaurants would rise an additional $25 to $100 a year, depending on their size. Lockard compared licensing fees in Salem with those charged in Manchester, Portsmouth, Concord, Keene and Nashua.

Current food service fees for most restaurants range from $100 to $500. Canobie Lake Park must pay $780 and Rockingham Park must pay $625.

Gerardo Cammarano, owner of Trattoria Amalfi restaurant on South Broadway, said although he would rather not have to pay more to license his business, the $100 hike isn’t unreasonable. He now pays $250 a year.

“If they have to do it, they have to do it — they run the town,” he said. “If they had doubled it, that would be one thing.”

Other increases include the fee for salvage yards rising from $25 to $50 and gas service permits would rise from $50 to $100. For the first time, there would be a fee to rip up a road for utility work. That fee iwould be $225.

The $60 fees for well and septic system permits would not change.