Opinion: Campground Cabin Inspection Fee Format Unfair
Editor's Note: The following editorial appeared in The Daily Star, Oneonta, N.Y.
With the summer tourism season under way, one might think it would be a good time to be a campground owner in Otsego County.
But just ask Juli Sharratt of Hartwick, who runs the Beaver Valley Campground, if she loves her line of work these days.
Sharratt and her local colleagues in the campground industry just got some bad news from the county, which has just rolled out a new fee structure that charges campgrounds with per-cabin fees, rather than a flat rate, for inspections.
For Sharratt, this means a bill of $2,300, rather than the $50 she paid last year. In a letter to The Daily Star, Sharratt called the fee hike — which, in her case, amounts to an increase of more than 3,000 percent — "outrageous."
Vincent Rozella, who runs Hartwick Highlands Campground, used the same word as Sharratt: Outrageous.
"We're regulated quite heavily and I have no problem with that," Rozella said.
What Rozella said he did have a problem with is the fact that hotels — including those with hundreds of guest rooms — are still being charged a flat rate, rather than having to pay by the unit like the campgrounds.
We agree with Sharratt and Rozella.
This new fee structure goes beyond the sort of thing a business owner might grumble about quietly under his or her breath, and into the territory of something that might make an otherwise mannerly person use foul language.
To charge campgrounds on a per-cabin basis, while hotels and bed-and-breakfasts pay flat rates, does not seem to make an awful lot of sense. As Sharratt points out, some of her cabins are small, simple structures without plumbing or much else that would necessitate extensive inspection.
Compare that with a hotel room, where you have heating and cooling units, toilet and bath fixtures, bedding, electrical outlets and so on, and it seems confusing that the county would charge more to inspect the former.
Adding insult to injury, Sharratt and Rozella said they didn't learn of the change until just days before the inspections were scheduled to begin.
County officials have backed off the fee structure, at least verbally. Code enforcement office Supervisor Neal McManus said his office is looking into revising the fees, which were approved by the county board last year. Rep. James Powers, chairman of the county's Public Safety Committee, said the board would look at it as well.
We fervently hope McManus and Powers follow through, and we're confident that business owners such as Rozella and Sharratt will keep their feet to the fire. But why couldn't this common-sense wisdom have prevailed when the fees were approved in the first place?