N.Y. fee for fire biz is rescinded

SSN Staff  - 
Thursday, February 1, 2007

GREECE, N.Y.--A $600 annual fee that would have applied to all fire-alarm, fire-extinguisher and fire-sprinkler companies that wanted to do business in Greece incited two local fire company owners to protest.
"We called the newspaper, the local congressman, the local union and we called the television," said Kevin Wilson, owner of Henrietta Fire Protection, a fire-inspection company that inspects fire extinguishers and commercial kitchen range hoods.
"It was a backdoor tax," said Wilson. "If we didn't protest, then every town would want to do this."
Wilson was joined in his efforts by Carmin Gallo, owner of Irondequoit Fire Extinguisher Company, who noted that fees of this magnitude could "take down the small companies."
The town of Greece implemented the fee in November as part of its budget and, following the protests of Wilson and Gallo, decided Jan. 2 to rescind the fee.
Jeff McCann, deputy supervisor for the town of Greece, said the fee is a "practice of trade" fee and that the town charges similar fees of $600 to electrical inspectors and elevator inspectors doing business in the town.
The rescission decision was a result of town officials' "questions about the amount of the fee and concern about undue impact of these small companies," McCann said.
Fees are used to help pay for town services in this town of 94,000 people, which is also home to Kodak.
Dale Eller, executive director of the New York Burglar & Fire Alarm Association, said he was not familiar with the situation in Greece, but that statewide alarm licensing requirements "prohibit local municipalities from infringing on the right of" licensed operators to do business in the state. These regulations may not apply to inspectors, but do apply to those who service and sell burglar and fire alarms.