05/20/13 — County to weigh response charges

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County to weigh response charges

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 20, 2013 1:46 PM

Wayne County fire departments could soon begin billing the public, for the first time, for their services at wrecks and other incidents that require an extended period of time.

The new policy would not include house fires or minor accidents.

Whether or not people would be billed in the first place would be at the discretion of an Emergency Services Cost Recovery Ordinance Review Committee, which would review the documentation for any cost recovery before the billing process is initiated.

The committee would include the fire commissioner (the board of commissioners' appointed representative), currently Wayne Aycock; the director of the Office of Emergency Services, currently Joe Gurley, and staff as required; a representative from the Wayne County Fireman's Association as appointed by commissioners; and any other industry specialist that the committee might need.

The fire commissioner, the Office of Emergency Services director and Wayne County Fireman's Association representative would be the voting members.

Wayne County commissioners Tuesday morning will consider calling for a public hearing on such a proposed county ordinance to allow the cost-recovery billing.

Commissioners will look at scheduling that hearing for June 18 at 9:15 a.m. when they meet Tuesday in the commissioners' meeting room on the fourth floor of the county courthouse annex. The session starts with an agenda briefing at 8 a.m. The meeting begins at 9 a.m.

The ordinance was authored by Wayne County EMS/ Safety Director Blair Tyndall at the request of the commissioners.

The county would first bill the insurance company of the person at fault, Tyndall said. If the company did not pay, then the responsible person or company would be billed, he said.

"All automobile insurance policies whether it be a personal insurance policy or a commercial policy, they have built into them allowances, which is a billable expense for extended circumstances - fluid leaks, oil leaks. That kind of that thing," he said.

The intention for the ordinance is not for everyday, minor wrecks, even though no wreck is minor to the people involved, Tyndall said.

"It is not for the two-vehicle fender-bender and that kind of thing," he said. "We are talking about extended scene times, trailers overturned, large releases of fluids, stuff that the fire departments have to stay on the scene for a very long time. It has nothing to do with house fires."

The impetus for the ordinance was a tractor-trailer wreck that required a department to have someone on the scene for about four days, he said.

"That is the kind of stuff we are talking about -- very extended scene time," Tyndall said. "They use a ton of equipment, and they use a ton of manpower."

The ordinance would provide a way for the departments to recover costs associated with responding to and controlling incidents including, but not limited to, hazardous materials release, long-term emergency operations, special or unusual incidents, identified types of motor vehicle collisions, manmade disasters, etc.

Under the ordinance, the Office of Emergency Services, fire departments that have contracts with Wayne County and other public safety organizations would have the authority to charge for the replacement of materials used in association with these incidents.

That authority would include automatic aid and mutual aid departments or agencies.

Fees would be assessed to recover the cost to replace or to repair equipment or supplies used or damaged at the scene. It would include, but would not be limited to foam, absorbent booms or pads, oil dry, oxygen, fire hose, protective clothing, waiting time, treatment fees and customary trip charges.

The cost would not be recoverable for any of the incidents associated with the ordinance if the situation involves a state or federally declared state of emergency.

Also on Tuesday's agenda are:

* Consideration of late applications for property tax exemption and for present use value

* An update on the health collective impact meeting held earlier this month.

* A proclamation designating Small Business Week in the county.

* Consideration of budget amendments.

* Recommended approval by the Wayne County Planing Board for of Dobbs County Estates Section 9 and Revision of Section 8 on Dobbs County Courthouse Road.

* A request for approval for a fireworks display on July 4 at Berkeley Mall.

Public comments will start at 10 a.m.