CUMBERLAND — After years of not collecting any revenue for many of its services, at the request of the city, the Cumberland Fire Department has submitted a plan to charge fees for services when possible.
“We will be billing the insurances and would not be billing the individual property owners,” said Jeff Rhodes, city administrator.
The plan was disclosed during a 2014 fiscal year budget session held by the mayor and city council on Tuesday.
Officials pointed out in the meeting that other municipalities are charging and the practice is growing as cities and towns across the country are looking for ways to increase revenue to help their already tight budgets during difficult economic times.
Donald Dunn, chief of the Cumberland Fire Department, said that fee-based plans are popular out west and are taking hold in Maryland, as well.
“Our plan is based on Hagerstown’s. We got a lot of the material from them,” said Dunn.
The plan would charge for four areas of service: structure fires, motor vehicle collision response, hazardous waste spills and false alarm incidents.
“Most insurances provide for that type of fee in their coverages,” said Rhodes.
Fire suppression fees for structure fires will be broken into three levels.
Level one is a basic response of a single-engine and first-responder setup, which will cost a $150 initial fee for the first hour then $100 per hour thereafter.
Level two is a multi-engine response with a command, evacuation, equipment use and traffic control. The charge will be $300 for the first hour and $100 thereafter per hour per engine.
Level three response is everything in level two plus a tower/ladder truck. Fees will be $1,000 for the first hour and then $100 per hour per engine and $200 an hour for the ladder truck.
“If people have no insurance then we can’t collect,” said Rhodes.
The plan is expected to be voted on along with the city’s fiscal year 2014 budget in June.
For motor vehicle accidents, fees are $150 per hour for an engine company or ladder company vehicle.
An additional $100 per hour for utility vehicles and $50 per hour for the commander and other personnel with the exception of the ambulance crew.
Hazardous materials calls will also have charges based on three levels.
Level one setup of a command and perimeter with evacuations is $500 per hour then $100 per hazmat team member per hour.
Level two calls will involve the hazmat certified personnel and appropriate gear including a decontamination center. The fee is $1,500 for first hour and $100 per hour thereafter per specialist.
Level three response will include levels one and two items plus the use of Level A & B hazmat suits, breathers and detection equipment. The fee is $2,000 for the first hour and then $100 per hour per specialist. Additional charges will apply for disposal of contaminated items.
Officials expect to receive around $40,000 annually from the fees in the plan.
A billing company that specializes in this type fee plan will handle invoicing insurance carriers.
The final, fee-based service is for false alarms.
The first time will receive a warning, but a second occurrence within a time frame of six months will cost $100. A third incident will cost $200, with additional offenses costing $300 each.
“The false alarm fees would only be for fires. There would be no charges for ambulance calls,” said Mayor Brian Grim.
Dunn said the plan required a fee schedule but he found that typically insurance companies will only pay $500 toward their services in Maryland.
The fire department also plans to charge for inspections.
An inspection or reinspection of fire alarms, detection systems, sprinklers, standpipes, and chemical suppression systems will be $100. A fireworks display inspection will also cost $100.
Required new business inspections and also assembly permits will cost $50.
Fireworks retail inspections and plan reviews will cost $25.
Greg Larry can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org