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Future fees; Fire chief proposes payment for services

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, June 16, 2018
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Cost of Service

COST OF SERVICE – The Decatur City Council is considering a request to allow the city’s fire department to bill insurance agencies for services rendered, such as responding to motor vehicle wrecks or fires. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Decatur could soon approve a number of fees that would be charged for services rendered by the fire department.

The city council held the first reading of an ordinance Monday that would create a fee schedule of fire response mitigation rates.

Decatur Fire Chief Mike Richardson said his department had been tasked with looking at potential revenue sources to help maintain a high level of service as demands on that service increase.

“Our call numbers are going up, our costs are going up, our city revenue and budgets aren’t, not yet,” he said. “We’ve got to either cut services or find another way to pay for some of it. This is something that would help.”

Richardson recommended using Fire Recovery USA to provide billing and collection services. He said it costs the fire department nothing to use the service, but Fire Recovery USA would keep 20 percent of collections and return 80 percent to the department.

The company looked at the number of calls the Decatur Fire Department responded to last year and calculated an estimate of how much could have been collected in 2017. Fire Recovery USA estimated they could have collected $84,634, meaning Decatur Fire Department would have received $67,707.

“A little less than the cost of a firefighter,” Richardson said.

Among the billable services are responses to motor vehicle incidents, hazmat situations, fires, fire investigations, illegal fires, water incidents and special rescue situations.

The company will bill the person’s insurance company, based upon the fee schedule approved by the city council. In some instances, such as a wreck, the bill will go to the person responsible for causing the wreck.

“Basically, it’s a way of recouping some money to reimburse the city for some of the costs it is incurring, to reimburse the taxpayers who are footing the bill for the fire department to go out and work these situations, especially when they are outside the city in the county,” Mayor Martin Woodruff said.

Richardson said other county departments including Boyd, Rhome, Newark, Alvord and Paradise already use Fire Recovery USA to collect the fees.

In addition to considering the new fire department fees, the council also held a first reading of an ordinance adjusting other fees collected by the city. Among the changes in inspection and code enforcement fees are the addition of fees for mobile food units and community/farmer’s markets. Under mobile food units, or food trucks, class 1 would pay a $150 annual fee, class 2 $250 and class 3 $100. A community/farmer’s market permit is a $150 annual fee, and a community/farmer’s market food vendor permit would be a $50 annual fee.

The council will hold a second reading and take action on the ordinances at the June 25 meeting.

In other business:

  • Mayor Martin Woodruff read a proclamation declaring Saturday, June 16, to be Decatur Juneteenth Day including a downtown parade and block party at Louida “Big Mama” Willis Park.
  • The council approved the appointment of Murvelle Chandler and Dennis McCreary as regular zoning board of adjustment (ZBA) members with terms to expire Oct. 1, 2019, and Wayne Stone as a regular ZBA member with a term to expire Oct. 1, 2018.
  • he council accepted the resignation of Jay Davidson from the Civic Center board and the appointment of Carey Williams for a term to expire May 31, 2019.

PROPOSED DECATUR FIRE DEPARTMENT
MITIGATION RATES

Motor Vehicle Incidents:
Level 1 – $487
Level 2 – $554
Level 3 – $677
Extrication – $1,461
Landing zone – $448
Additional time: Engine per hour – $448; Truck per hour – $560; Misc. equipment per hour – $336

Hazmat:
Level 1 – $784
Level 2 – $2,800
Level 3 – $6,600
Additional time: Engine per hour – $448; Truck per hour – $560; Misc. per hour – $336

Fire Investigation:
Fire investigation team
per hour – $308

Fire Response:
Engine per hour – $448
Truck per hour – $560

Illegal Fires:
Engine per hour – $448
Truck per hour – $560

Water Incidents:
Level 1 – $448
Per rescue person
per hour – $56
Level 2 – $896
Per rescue person
per hour – $56
Level 3 – $2,240
Per rescue person
per hour – $56
Per hazmat person
per hour – $112

Special Rescue:
Response vehicle
per hour – $448
Per rescue person
per hour – $56

Command/Chief Response:
Per hour – $280

Misc./Additional Time on Scene:
Engine per hour – $448
Truck per hour – $560
Misc. equipment per hour – $336

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