City adjusts collection process for delinquent safety inspection certificate fees

Great Falls Fire Rescue is changing the process for collecting delinquent safety inspection certificate fees.

Great Falls Fire Rescue asked commissioners for the change since the process of getting businesses to renew their SICs requires significant staff time.

GFFR Chief Jeremy Jones told commissioners during their May 4 meeting that “we have a problem.”

City resumes issuing safety inspection renewals

He said that the process of collecting fees from the businesses that are delinquent on their SICs is time consuming for GFFR staff and the city’s legal department.

Jones said that last year, the department spend 64 hours just reissuing the SICs, and the now approved change would free up that time for other code enforcement and safety issues in the community.

As of May 4, Jones said there were 130 delinquent businesses in town that aren’t current on their SICs.

Fee increases, changes to code for Safety Inspection Certificates proposed [2017]

The new process allows the city to refer delinquent accounts to a collections agency and there will be charges, usually on a percentage basis, for the delinquent business accounts that are sent to collection, according to the city staff report.

The city does not require or issue local business licences but it does require businesses to have safety inspection certificates, which expire annually on Dec. 31 with 30 day renewal notices sent out on or around Dec. 1.

Under the city’s previous process, renewals not received by Dec. 31 were assessed a $30 late fee and a second round of renewal notices were issued on or around Feb. 1 and due at the end of February.

The third round of renewal notices are sent out on or around March 1 and no further late fee is assessed. At this step, the fire prevention bureau at GFFR receives a list, typically numbering in the couple hundreds, and bureau staff attempts to make contact in person or by phone or email.

Staff either makes contact, or leaves a letter documenting the need for renewal, and another 30 days is given to renew the SIC, according to city staff.

On or around April 1, fire prevention staff again visit those business that have not yet renewed their SICs and hand-delivers or sends a certified letter giving 15 days to comply with renewal. AIf the SIC is not renewed by the 15 days, fire prevention staff send the matter to the city’s legal department. In the past, the city attorney’s office has used fire prevention staff to deliver affidavits issued for non-renewal of SICs.