City could charge for emergency calls

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February 19, 2010
— The Janesville Fire Department would charge $400 to $500 for services at vehicle crashes or vehicle fires under a proposal being considered by the city council Monday.

The cost of providing emergency services continues to increase as revenues fall, Gerry Luiting, deputy fire chief, wrote in a memo to council members.

The department proposes charging residents $400 for vehicle accidents and $500 for vehicle fires. Non-city residents would be charged $500 for vehicle accidents and $600 for vehicle fires.

The fees would be in addition to the ambulance fee already charged.

A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled during Monday’s council meeting. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in City Hall.

City staff estimate the “users fee” would generate about $60,000 annually.

The fee amounts are based on charges billed in other communities by Fire Recovery USA, a specialty billing company. The city would use such a service if it bills for emergency responses.

The fee would be charged not based on whether a motorist causes an accident but on the actions firefighters take at the scene.

“If we go to the accident and there’s nothing there that we need to do, there’s nothing to charge,” Luiting said.

City Manager Eric Levitt recommended the council adopt the change because it is a way to recover some costs of providing emergency services from users instead of increasing property taxes.

The cost to provide emergency services to increasing numbers of calls continues to grow at a rate that exceeds revenues, according to the memo.

Raising property taxes to meet the increased service demands is not necessarily fair to the property owners when many motor vehicle incidents and other emergency services involve individuals not owning property or paying taxes in the fire department’s service area, according to the memo.

When asked why the department is not recommending that residents be charged for structure fires, as well, Luiting said:

“We were asked to come up with different solutions to raise funding and try to meet the budget problems of last year. These (fees) target mostly the user as opposed to sending out another property tax increase.”

Typically, insurance will pay for such charges, he said.


The Janesville City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Monday in City Hall, 18 N. Jackson St. Items on the agenda include:

-- A public hearing on a proposed ordinance to allow residents to keep a limited number of chickens in the city.

-- A public hearing and action on starting council meetings at 6:30 p.m. rather than 7 p.m.

-- Action on whether to pay a consultant to evaluate the condition of the ice arena and plans for a new ice arena. The council also will discuss extending the March 1 fundraising deadline it imposed on a private group that is raising money for a new ice arena.

-- Action on a proposed resolution requesting the return of the Parker Pen archives to Janesville. The archives were moved to the United Kingdom in 1986 when a group of investors bought the company. Newell Rubbermaid now owns the business and plans to move production to France. The fate of the Parker archives, which includes a historic collection of pens and documents, is unclear. The resolution asks that the archives be returned to Janesville to be displayed at the Rock County Historical Society.

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