Fruitland Park to return thousands in city fees after class action lawsuit

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FRUITLAND PARK, Fla. - Channel 9 has learned a circuit court judge has approved a class action settlement that affects many of the residents of a Lake County city.

The settlement stems from a class action lawsuit filed by Fruitland Park residents who were fed up with fire and police fees.

One of those residents, Mike Howard, said he was ready to go after the city.

"Every place, this has been done before. It has proven to be an unconstitutional tax against the citizens," Howard said.

Since 2009, residents were being charged about $4 per month and the fees eventually went up to $8 per month. Officials said the police and fire fees were being used to help pay for emergency equipment.

But Howard, his wife and former city commissioner Jim Richardson filed a class action lawsuit and in early April, a judge ruled in favor of the people. Fruitland Park must now set up a fund to pay back $530,000 and get rid of the fees.

"That was the number one thing, getting the ordinance repealed first and foremost," Howard said.

Attorneys who were representing the group will take home a large part of the money, but residents are expected to receive as much as $100 per person in July.

WFTV was unable to get a comment from Fruitland Park officials about the settlement Monday night.