07/15/13 — Commissioners to discuss fire department fees and other items

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Commissioners to discuss fire department fees and other items

By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 15, 2013 1:49 PM

Wayne County commissioners will discuss Tuesday the possible adoption of a county ordinance that would allow fire departments to recoup costs associated with major spill cleanups and/or extended time spent at a scene.

Several county fire service veterans spoke in favor of the fees during a June 18 public hearing. No one spoke against the proposed ordinance, which would allow fire departments to 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.

House fires and minor accidents would not be included.

A work session on the proposal is on the board's Tuesday agenda. Commissioners will hold an agenda briefing at 8 a.m. followed by the regular session at 9 a.m. Both will be held in the commissioners' meeting room on the fourth floor of the county courthouse.

Wayne County Commissioner Wayne Aycock, a long-time firefighter himself, said he had been approached by some of the fire chiefs in the county about proposing the ordinance.

"We need this ordinance," Goldsboro Fire Chief Gary Whaley said during the public hearing. "We do have some leeway through the Hazardous Material Act of North Carolina, but it is difficult.

"This will make it a whole lot easier. As fire chief for the city of Goldsboro, we are happy that Mr. Aycock included us on this. It will make it a lot easier for us to recover (costs). By the time you use foam, manpower, those type of resources, it gets kind of expensive. I think this is a move in the right direction, and we support it whole heartedly."

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

Jay Howell, who served as Nahunta fire chief for 34 years, said at the same hearing that insurance carriers have asked in prior years for such an ordinance.

"If we don't have that ordinance they don't have to pay us," he said. "Sometimes they will, but many times they do not."

Fire departments would have to submit documentation for any cost recovery to an Emergency Services Cost Recovery Ordinance Review Committee that would review the documentation before any billing process.

The committee would consist of the fire commissioner, the board of commissioners' appointed representative, who is currently Aycock; the director of the Office of Emergency Services, currently Joe Gurley; and staff as required; a commissioner-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.

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

In other business Tuesday, the board will consider:

* An application for the Homestead Exclusion tax program

* The appointment of Roger Pittman to the Nahunta Fire Protection District Commission

* Proclaiming Wayne County a Purple Heart County in honor/memory of the nation's military members wounded or killed in action

* Approval of the final plat for section 3 of Lafayette Park. The subdivision consists of 13 lots on the west side of U.S. 117 South.

The public comments portion of the meeting will start at 10 a.m.