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.
- 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.