NEW MILFORD — People who repeatedly refuse or ignore the town’s notices to allow officials to inspect their properties could face a $200 fee.

The fire marshal inspects properties in town for numerous reasons, be it new construction or a routine inspection of a business.

The new fee would apply to properties that force the town to go to state Superior Court to obtain a search warrant. The process requires a phone call, then a letter, followed by a certified letter and if there is still no response, the town can file for a search warrant.

The additional fee was introduced because town officials have to spend half of a day to a full day in court in Torrington to secure these warrants, based on the docket.

Fire Marshal Brian Ohmen has said both applicants for the warrant have to go to the court and wait for a judge to sign off on it. Of the more than 1,100 inspections done last year, four escalated to this point.

Most of the Town Council members supported the new fee at a recent public hearing but said it should be higher to match employee expenses, as well as cover the costs of a marshal and court fees. They said the higher fee would be a deterrent.

“The town shouldn’t have to take it on the chin if a person has to go to court,” Councilman Michael Gold said.

Town Attorney Matt Grimes advised against increasing the fee because he said it will be harder to defend the fee in court if it’s higher than the other inspection fees in place.

“New Milford is sort of a pioneer in this,” Grimes said.

Councilwoman Katy Francis said she worried it will be harder to raise the fee later to cover town expenses if it’s not set at the correct amount now.

“We don’t have it in excess to be handing it out,” she said. “Why not recoup it where we can?”

The public hearing will remain open and the issue most likely will be voted on at the next council meeting.

kkoerting@newstimes.com; 203-731-3345