By Naomi Hatch –
“We’re going to give them the highest quality of (fire suppression) service we can give them outside city limits, but now we’re going to have to recoup some of the costs,” Snowflake Fire Chief Pat Hancock advised the town council June 26. He noted that this might give the owners incentive to clear up fire hazards on property outside the town limits.
A request for council approval to enter a billing agreement with Cost Recovery USA for collection of the costs incurred while providing emergency services outside the town limits was approved by the council. It was noted that Navajo County will not provide fire services and Mayor Kelly Willis noted that fire taxes paid on property taxes goes to fire districts, the Snowflake Fire Department does not receive any of those funds.
In response to a question, Chief Hancock said that the company would take 18 percent of the amount paid noting that was a normal fee. Later Councilman Tom Poscharsky pointed out that the contract said the firm would take 20 percent for services rendered.
The amount of funds collected could not be determined, but it was the consensus that it would be fiscally responsible to the Snowflake taxpayers to attempt to recoup the cost of services provided to persons or entities that do not directly contribute to the upkeep and maintenance of the fire department and its budget.
Chief Hancock and Assistant Chief Dale Call had gathered information regarding responses out the of town limits over the last year that could have been billed and provided that to the council.
In response to a question posed by Councilwoman Bev Kay regarding out of town residents being able to purchase a subscription, as was previously discussed, Chief Hancock explained that he had discussed this with other fire departments throughout the state and it was felt a subscription would create problems, because that would obligate the town to provide services even if there was a structure fire in town limits. Other cities and towns are using an agency to collect fees, and many use this same company.
Mayor Willis said he felt that businesses such as the paper mill and the pig farm do have a direct impact in that they hire Snowflake residents.
Chief Hancock explained that when the department responds to a fire at the paper mill or the pig farm, their insurance pays for costs incurred by other responding entities and they have covered costs for responses to fires over the past years.
“Under these new rates it is going to be a larger bill than what it has been,” said Town Manager Paul Watson. He gave the example of the paper mill fire that the department responded to and the town collected fees. “It wasn’t just us, there were other agencies that had to respond because of the size,” he said. “The paper mill takes that through their insurance.” Watson said that in that particular case there was a very high deductible, so the firm paid a lot out of pocket, “But they recognize that where they’re located they need those services. They recognize that there will be a cost for the services.”
“I’m concerned about those that lose everything and have no insurance to cover it, and we hit them with a $4,000 to $5,000 bill. On top of that we send a company to collect,” said Mayor Willis. “It seems like it would be best to me, that we let these people know beforehand.”
Councilman Larry Matyas made a motion to enter into an agreement with Cost Recovery USA for collection of costs incurred while providing emergency services outside the town limits.
After discussion regarding notifying these residents, Matyas withdrew his motion and moved to approve Cost Recovery USA for collection of costs incurred while providing emergency services outside town limits, except for mutual aid responses, to be effective Sept. 1, 2012. The motion passed unanimously.
Staff members were asked to do their best to notify those residents who would be affected by this agreement prior to Sept 1.