06/17/13 — Fire call could result in a bill

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Fire call could result in a bill

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 17, 2013 1:46 PM

Wayne County commissioners will hold a public hearing Tuesday on a proposed ordinance that would authorize the county's fire departments to recover costs associated with extended response times and/or extra or damaged materials at accident scenes.

The hearing is scheduled for 9:15 a.m. in the commissioners' meeting room on the fourth floor of the county courthouse annex. Commissioners have indicated that they want to follow up on the hearing with a work session on the ordinance prior to making a decision.

House fires and minor accidents would not be included in the ordinance. Rather, the departments would levy fees to recover the costs of replacing or repairing equipment or supplies used or damaged at a scene, as well as to cover the cost of any extended on-scene time.

However, the departments would first have to submit documentation for any cost recovery to an Emergency Services Cost Recovery Ordinance Review Committee. The committee would review the documentation before the billing process would be initiated.

The insurance company of the person at fault in a wreck would be billed first. If the company does not pay, then the responsible person or company would be billed.

The cost would not be recoverable if the situation involves a state or federally declared state of emergency.

The committee would consist of the fire commissioner; the board of commissioners' appointed representative, who is currently Commissioner Wayne Aycock; the director of the Office of Emergency Services, currently Joe Gurley; and staff as required; a commissioners-appointed representative from the Wayne County Firemen's Association; and any other industry specialist that the committee might determine is needed.

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

Aycock said he had asked for the proposal after being approached by several fire chiefs who expressed an interest in such an ordinance.

The interest was sparked by a wreck call involving an overturned vehicle that required monitoring over a period of several days.

The ordinance is not aimed at minor wrecks or house fires, Wayne County EMS/Safety Director Blair Tyndall said in an earlier interview.

"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," he said. "It has nothing to do with house fires.

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

In other business Tuesday, commissioners will consider changes to the meeting schedule and membership of the county's new Veterans Services Advisory Board.

The changes were recommended by the advisory board following its first meeting last month. Members want to meet at least every other month, or more often if needed, instead of quarterly.

Also, the seven-member board suggested the addition of three at-large veterans in order to reach as many of the county's veterans as possible.

Six of the members are veterans representing each of the county's six commission districts. Commissioner Bill Pate is the seventh member. All of the members are appointed by commissioners.

Commissioners also will consider a request from Hale Artificier for permission for a fireworks display in Mount Olive as part of the town's Fourth of July celebration. The display would be held at the Mount Olive Airport on July 6.

Commissioners will meet as the Board of Equalization and review at 8:30 a.m.

Public comments will be accepted beginning at 10 a.m., when people may speak for four minutes on their topic(s) of choice.