Heath is considering charging two new fees in 2009: one to help prevent grease from getting into the city's wastewater treatment plant and one for businesses tapping into the city's water system for fire protection.

Heath is considering charging two new fees in 2009: one to help prevent grease from getting into the city's wastewater treatment plant and one for businesses tapping into the city's water system for fire protection.

John Geller, Heath's utilities director, told Heath City Council's service committee Nov. 24 that the city once had a program in place to control the release of fats, oils and grease from local businesses. But the city lost a few employees and the program "fell through the cracks."

His plan to bring back the program would cost businesses with grease traps and grease interceptors $100 in 2009 and $50 each year after that to obtain the proper permit. The 2009 fee is higher because it includes a one-time processing fee.

"We want to improve our treatment process," Geller told council.

Letters that explain the program will be sent out to applicable businesses in December. The permit program will begin in January of 2009, with fees due in March 2009, Geller said.

City employees will do an initial site visit and can continue to visit local businesses as needed, Geller said.

He said the program applies to all businesses with food service, including schools. It does not include churches and day-care facilities.

Geller said restaurants have what is called a grease interceptor or grease trap, which is expected to catch grease and prevent it from entering the city's wastewater lines. The interceptor must be cleaned out regularly.

He guessed that most restaurants already do this, even though few send the city reports of having interceptors cleaned.

Council member Chris May, who owns two restaurants in Heath, said most business owners have the traps cleaned, adding, "The drains won't work if you don't pump them out."

Bob Sealock, environmental health director for the Licking County Health District, said the health department requires maintenance of local grease trapping systems.

"Some use more grease and require more attention than others," Sealock said.

He said the companies that pump grease out of systems are required to send a copy of the work that was done to the health department.

"It's required so we can find out who the people are who maintain the systems and so we can make sure the pumpers are not dumping the waste in an inappropriate place," Sealock said.

He said the county does not track waste that is removed from Licking County and taken to a dump site out of the area. But, he said, "If the disposal site is here, we want to know."

Newark has a similar program, charging $50 annually. Roger Loomis, Newark's utilities director, said the city began the program several years ago to help control blockages in the wastewater treatment system.

"It has helped tremendously and keeps grease out of the wastewater plant," Loomis said.

Heath Council President Jeff Crabill asked if the permit will have a penalty associated for noncompliance. Geller said business owners who fail to get a permit or fail to comply with the permit can be fined a civil penalty of $100 to $1,000.

Council members agreed Nov. 24 to consider a legislative request to initiate the permit and fee system.

Council also agreed Nov. 24 to consider legislation establishing tap fees for fire protection. Geller said the city currently does not charge businesses to tap into the city's water lines when setting up indoor sprinkler systems. The city also does not charge the businesses for water used in the fire-suppression systems.

He recommended charging a $2,500 tap fee, unless the business is required to pay to install a fire hydrant nearby, which can cost up to $2,500.

Councilman Tim Kelley questioned the hydrant exemption and said the city should charge the tap fee regardless of whether or not a hydrant must be installed. Geller said the city's zoning department is not in favor of charging an extra fee and Mayor Richard Waugh asked if the city should use the fee as an incentive, waiving the fee for large businesses that bring several jobs to the city.

Councilman James Watercutter said he wants the legislation to state who is charged and the amount so it's not subjective.

Geller said other cities do charge a tap fee and Newark also charges to install the tap, since Newark makes its own taps.

Crabill suggested the fee might not be a hindrance to businesses, since it will improve each business's insurance rating.

When asked his final recommendation, Geller suggested considering a flat $2,500 fee, with no allowances for hydrant placement. Council agreed to consider that legislation during a future meeting.