Effective January 1, 2013 the Indianapolis Fire Department ("IFD") will begin to collect fees for initial fire inspections. IFD is required by state law to establish an inspection cycle for all structures within our jurisdiction, except where the interior of private dwellings. The purpose of the inspections is to promote compliance with fire safety laws.The Payment Instruction Form contains a warning that you will be socked with a 20% collection fee if you refuse to comply and either complete the self-inspection form and pay the $25.00 or the higher fee required if IFD performs an inspection of your premises. You are also threatened with re-inspection fees of $80.00 if you fail to comply with any violations IFD determines you have failed to remedy. If you choose to self-inspect, you are required to sign a form under penalties of perjury. This is Mayor Ballard's way of telling you that he needs all the tax money we pay to support fire services to hand out to his political cronies. Tell him he can take his extortion letter and shove up it his ass. The idea that tenants in a multi-tenant office building who have no control over the building's public safety systems would be sent this shake down letter shows just how far this corrupt mayor has drifted from the campaign platform upon which he was elected in 2007. Stop stealing our tax dollars for your political cronies so you can fund city services honestly with the taxes we already pay, Greg!
The inspection fees are based on the square footage of the structure. Your property/structure has been identified by the Fire Marshal as being eligible to participate in the Self-Inspection Program. If you decide to participate in the Self-Inspection Program you will pay a $25.00 annual inspection fee. Standard fire inspections conducted by IFD range from $50.00 to $150.00 . . .
In order to participate in the Self-Inspection Program you must complete the Self-Inspection Form, which accompanies this letter, and return it to IFD no later than April 5, 2013. If your Self-Inspection form is not properly and timely completed your property/structure will automatically be scheduled for an inspection by IFD and you will be subject to standard fire inspection fees based upon square footage adn additional fees, as specified in the Payment Information section on the back of this letter . . .
UPDATE: It turns out that this backdoor tax increase on Indianapolis businesses was carried out in Proposal No. 300 sponsored by Councilor Vernon Brown (D), an Indianapolis fire department batallion chief, which was adopted by the full council on November 22, 2012 with 23 voting yes and 4 voting no. Only Councilors Cain, Cardwell, Lutz and Sandlin voted against this backdoor tax increase. Councilors Brown and Hunter were absent for the vote. Here's the offending language of the ordinance:
The fire prevent chief may implement a self-inspection program for monitoring compliance with fire safety laws. Property owners or primary lessees that are eligible, as determined by the fire prevention chief, for the fire safety law compliance self-inspection program shall adhere to the requirements of such program as implemented by the fire department and shall be subject to the fee provided in section 131-502 of the Code.The self-inspection program applies to "property owners or primary lessees." Clearly, the fire marshal chief is carrying out the new program in violation of the ordinance. How the hell can you subject single-office tenants in a multi-tenant office complex to this requirement who clearly aren't "primary lessees." My reading of the law would subject a tenant to the self-reporting requirement only if the lessee is the primary occupant of the building. If there are multiple tenants in a single building, the ordinance I would argue was intended to place the self-reporting duty on the building's owner, not the multiple lessees.
I also learned another interesting fact. IFD requested information of building owners on their tenants without disclosing to them the purpose of the request. Building owners believed that they were simply helping IFD have information in a database to aid it in the event of a fire or other emergency. They were not told IFD intended to subject their tenants to an annual reporting requirement accompanied by an annual self-inspection fee of $25.00. The committee report made no reference to the ordinance being adopted for the purpose of raising additional fees. "The proposal, sponsored by Councilor Brown, amends the Code to add fees for inspections by the Indianapolis Fire Department for compliance with fire safety laws," read the Criminal Justice Committee report read by Councilor Mary Moriarty Adams. According to the new fee schedule included with the adoption of the ordinance, the $25.00 fee applies to "Self-inspection by property owner for compliance with safety laws. It doesn't even reference lessees. The ordinance adds other tiered fees ranging from $50 to $150 for: inspection of a structure with less than 3,000 square feet; inspection of a structure with more than 3,000 square feet but no more than 10,000 square feet; inspection of structures with more than 10,000 square feet. There is also a new $80.00 re-inspection fee and a new $100 fee for inspection of fire protection systems for which plans and specifications have been submitted. It doesn't take much number crunching to figure out that this tax will hit businesses to the tune of several million dollars annually at a minimum. It probably is larger than either of the two tax increases just passed by the council to benefit the CIB.
Unigov points to the following controlling state statute, which does not on its face appear to allow for a self-inspection program:
(b) The fire department serving an area that includes a city shall inspect every place and public way within the jurisdiction of the city, except the interiors of private dwellings, for compliance with the fire safety laws. Upon the request of an owner or a primary lessee who resides in a private dwelling, the fire department may inspect the interior of the private dwelling to determine compliance with IC 22-11-18-3.5. Except as otherwise provided in the rules adopted by the commission, the fire chief of the fire department shall specify the schedule under which places and public ways are inspected and may exclude a class of places or public ways from inspection under this section, if the fire chief determines that the public interest will be served without inspection. The fire department shall maintain a written report for each inspection. The fire department shall submit monthly reports to the division, on forms prescribed by the division, containing the following information:
(1) The total number of inspections made.
(2) The total number of defects found, classified as required by the office.
(3) The total number of orders issued for correction of each class of defect.
(4) The total number of orders complied with.
(c) A volunteer fire department may carry out inspections under this section only through an individual who is certified under IC 22-14-2-6(c).