ECCFPD Postpones Vote on Cost Recovery Fee for Non-Residents

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The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District held a lively debate last night over whether or not to begin charging non-residents for services should they be found at fault of an accident.  The District ultimately decided to gather more information and continue the discussion until next month.

The policy would generate an estimated $100,000 in added revenue to the District by billing insurance companies of non-residents. According to the staff report, the fees for a vehicle accident could range from a basic one engine response of $435.00 to a vehicle accident with extrication and a medical helicopter/multi-engine response of $2,200.00 as a form of “cost recovery”.

After hearing the report from Chief Henderson, Director Ronald Johansen stated they should go with the national average which is more defendable and that the policy would not be a case by case basis—one policy for all.

Director Smith asked if Contra Costa County Fire Protection District (CONFIRE) looked into this and who else is using it. The Chief replied CONFIRE did look at it but did not move forward. He did say Moraga-Orinda, Rodeo-Hercules and Pinole are using this type of cost recovery measure.

The chief also explained that most of the district using this type of cost recovery model are in rural or small communities, none of the larger city’s or fire Districts charge non-residents for service.

Director Johansen stated that he pushed for this to be looked at as a way to show community we have looked at every and all possible revenue for the District. He also stated he wanted to look at the ability to charge for other types of calls such as arson or accidental fires—the Chief confirmed the billing company could do that.

Director Morgan asked if those people who are serviced by CALFIRE would be charged. The chief responded that since they are under contract with us, the revenue would go to the District.

Director Morgan called the policy a “revenue generator for the District”.

Director Young meanwhile wanted to know who would determine who is at fault? The Chief stated it would go through law enforcement and the company would gather the information, not the District.

Director Johansen further stated his position in wanting to use the national model in terms of charging for service.

“I want to move forward as fast as possible and generate revenue for the District to keep stations open,” stated Johansen. “It worked for other agencies and it’s a good direction to go and shows we are look at ways to generate revenue outside a tax.”

Director Smith stated he wanted more information and hear others experience with such a program and how this works with uninsured drivers.

“We should give this some serious consideration but we should look at it more,” explained Young. “One accident on Vasco and you tie up two engines and a battalion chief which is a lot of resources for our district. I’d like to see it expanded to reckless behavior, DUI’s, accidental fires.”

Director Young meanwhile said more information was need.

“This policy opens the door to our district becoming a fee based District. To come up with $100k, we need 100 accidents. Adding fees becomes counterproductive to this type of revenue,” said Young.

Director Michaelson stated that in San Ramon, they have two types of billing which includes one for residents and another for non-residents. He stated that should the insurance company’s default or decline payment, they would then go after the non-resident for payment.

Board President Bryant stated that he wanted more information and to see whether the $100k gained would be tied up in litigation costs.

‘I encourage the board to also look at the cost to local business, public perception, they have been evenly divided in the past,” explained Bryant. “The public perception is what we really need to know.”

Director Morgan stated again this would be a revenue generator for the district and said they should do what they can for revenue to show voters they are working to fix the financial struggles the District is dealing with.

“If we don’t push forward as far as we can then our arguments to them weaken,” said Morgan.

The board will take up the issue during the November meeting.

Meeting Tidbits:

  • For the month of September, the District is reporting they had a total of 506 calls for service with an average response time of 6:36 minutes. Compared to the month of August, the District ran 538 calls with an average response time of 7:24 minutes.
  • Alex Aliferis of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association and Hal Bray of Republican Party of Contra Costa County were invited to a budget meeting to learn about the District on Sept. 12 which they previously stated at a meeting they wanted proof the District is doing what it can for revenue–neither showed or responded to the District invitation.
  • The District was provided a presentation from the service model ad-hoc committee which highlights their preference of moving forward with a tax measure that no-less maintains the current five-station model. A three-station model does not even allow them to respond to a structure fire.
  • An Ad-hoc committee was formed to create goals for Chief Henderson for his next contract review.

 

13 COMMENTS

  1. What a horrible idea.

    The great majority of fire departments do not charge for service we are ALREADY paying for. The few that do offer enhanced (paramedic) and transport service which is why they charge.
    Comparing East County to Departments like San Ramon and Orinda-Moraga is apples to oranges. It’s a disingenuous comparison.

    Cheryl Morgan doesn’t get it. If the directors move in this direction all bets are off on passing any future revenue by the voters. Another black eye for east county fire who continues to ask for money from outside of the district.

    Distasteful and embarrassing.

    • The “double-charging” argument is invalid on it’s face. The proposal is to charge non-residents who are adjudged “at-fault” (by Police and/or the Insurance Companies involved) in a vehicle accident for which the District provides services. We are 96% funded by property taxes, paid only by residents and businesses in the District.

      We aren’t CONFIRE. Of our 249 square mile territory, 37 square miles are suburban, 95 square miles are rural, and 117 square miles are frontier/wilderness. We cover it all. A severe accident near the county lines on Vasco, Byron Highway, or Highway 4 east of Discovery Bay can pull significant resources away to the edges of the District.

      For those who think $100K per year is chump change, they should see what our service model would be after November 2014 absent any other income. That amount might just be what enables us to continue the Amador Contract, that keeps a CALFIRE company in the Upper Marsh Creek/Morgan Territory area when wildland fire season ends.

      • What’s next, you promote visitors and tourism to East County by telling people you’ll charge them to use a water fountain at a local park?

        Your $100k that you are wasting substantial time and energy in pursuit of won’t prevent a single station closure or even fund 1 full-time position for one year. But it will provide substantial negative PR and animosity within the community where you don’t have the luxury of any to give up.

        The Marsh Creek contract is in excess of $365k last time I looked. The last financial forecasts post grant money had you with revenues that won’t even support the 3 station service model you had before the grant money arrived. That is excluding Marsh Creek, which means you seem to be shell gaming about $500k in this discussion. If ConFire starts billing you for the resource sharing inequity(a real possibility), you don’t have a pot to piss in.

        It’s called perspective. The Chambers of Commerce and tourist industry lobbyists should be verbally flogging you for your short-sightedness.

        What you should instead be doing is putting 100% of your energies into finding a supplemental revenue measure that is palatable to the voters. Since you like to boast that you were there throughout the negotiations to hand off to local control, you should pull your notes out and look at the #1 and #2 items that you were tasked with by LAFCO in the JPA.

        Presently you are failing on both of them. The back slapping episodes about what you claimed you’ve done as a body to this point are embarrassing. This effort is another in that long line.

  2. Director Young understands what is really going on. It is the first step in a fee based District. Johansen, Morgan, and Smith seem all but ready to stick it to residents and non-residents and start fining people for accidents. Glad CONFIRE who serves me is the only district smart enough to figure out you don’t double charge people. Its become clear as an outsider but close follower of the district that this is a money hungry fire district instead of a service fire district.

    • “Fining”? Oh, please. Courts fine people. We are considering billing the insurance company of someone who is not a district taxpayer for services rendered in a situation they are adjudged as having caused.

      As far as double-charging, see my response to @Sammy above.

      “Money Hungry”? This is a District on life support. We are trying to keep enough District resources to be able to PROVIDE services. With less than five stations, if someone’s home catches fire, the best we will be able to do is save the neighpor’s home. Or the folds two doors down.

  3. If the District is serious about its money, get rid of all the full-time fully paid firefighters sitting around in stations and go back to volunteers. The District can then bill people based on a sliding scale of the type of accident from a fire, vegetation fire, car accident to arson. There, I just solved the fire districts problem in a common sense solution
    The idea of charging anyone for an accident is not a very good one unless every single district adopts the same policy because its basically the luck of the draw whether you will be charged based on location of an accident

    • the community DEMANDED that we move from a volunteer dept to a paid PROFESSIONAL dept. That’s what started this whole damn mess. If you want to move backwards, I hope that your application to be a volunteer is sitting on Chief Henderson’s desk.

  4. I don’t like the idea of charging people for accidents, but charging them for services is sensible. The hospital charges for services. The ambulance charges for services. Why shouldn’t the district charge for medical services provided.

    If the district is dispatched to someone’s house to deliver a baby why shouldn’t they charge for their service. If that same person took a cab to an ER they would be charged. It’s not a punishment, it’s a way of paying for a service to ensure it is available.

    It the district isn’t going to work to collect fees for the medical services they are providing then they aren’t taking all the possible steps balance their books.

    It may be a good idea to offer a “resident discount”.

  5. I agree with you Steve. Jiggy needs to take his panties out of a wad. Insurance companies will be the payer in most cases. The 100% discount for district residents will eliminate the double pay comment. As far as the tourism comment. That’s about as stupid as it gets. Like people want to travel from another country to visit and shop at McDonalds in Discovery Bay. A better question for revenue is why the Supervisors at the recommendation from the fire district to create a Mello Roos for the fire department with the latest two housing developments in the beautiful Discovery Bay were ignored? Maybe Dave and Mary can come up with a load of crap answer. I guess it is not import to reopen the closed station over payola favors. Ya, the commission needs to declare a freeze on all housing permits until the fire district is back on tract.

    • Well looky there. The resident mental case has another new alias.

      If you could pull your head out long enough you would recognize that the south Delta does indeed draw a significant number of non-resident boaters and fishermen on any given weekend. On the order of thousands in a busy weekend. Not to mention a flood of people coming over from the Bay Area for harvests and U-pick activities. Plus normal family and friends visiting.

      Your closer is a classic. We’re talking about $100k and you think that reopens a station? Mello Roos was proposed in DB? By who? You and your band of anti-growth nuts? Certainly wasn’t the fire district.

      One should easily see that a couple hundred units is not sufficient to fund a Melllo Roos district for such a small area. The fire district is regional. The tax collection would be very localized. Your dumb idea just means money would flow out of DB and into the district as a whole. Mellos Roos is good for depressing property values. Maybe that’s what you’re shooting for?

      Why don’t you go reload and come back to see if you can shoot yourself in the other foot. Probably want to register another alias while you’re at it to add to the two dozen or so you are up to now. You kinda sunk this one right out of the gate.

  6. Its really sad that here we are are, several years down the road still in the same damn mess. In all the years since ECCFPD was formed, NOTHING has been resolved. Lots of talk and hot air. Lots of debates on the same old ideas and issues. Don’t know about the rest of you, but I am fed up. Time to put up or shut up. If a tax doesn’t pass this time, gut the dept and let the houses burn, leave accidents victims trapped in cars and medical calls unanswered. Its what we deserve.

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