Moundsville Officials: Fire Response Fee Only To Affect Insurance Firms

Photo by Alan Olson Moundsville Fire Chief Gary Brandon explains the rationale behind requesting a fee for emergency responses to car accidents during Moundsville City Council’s meeting Tuesday.

MOUNDSVILLE — City council passed Tuesday night the first reading of a ordinance that would charge a fee whenever the fire department responds to a traffic accident.

However, city officials said, the fee would only be passed onto insurance companies, and individuals without insurance would not be billed.

The motion to approve the ordinance on first reading passed unanimously, with council members David Haynes and Ginger DeWitt absent from the meeting.

The fee was proposed by the city’s fire department. Fire Chief Gary Brandon said the fee would go toward covering the costs of accident cleanup. Most notably, he said, it would pay for an absorbent product the department uses to clean up hazardous materials.

The exact amount of the fee has not been worked out yet.

“All this program’s going to be doing is replacing some of our equipment used on car accidents, … for example, Floor-dry,” Brandon said. “We go through bags and bags of Floor-dry on car accidents. That comes out of our budget. We don’t replenish any money from car accidents. Right now, we’ve had over 70 car wrecks this year, and we’ve ordered two skids just this year, and it’s not cheap.”

Brandon estimated that the fire department has spent around $500 during the past year for the product.

He said no individual person will be billed for the response, but that it will exclusively be passed on to insurance.

“There’s going to be no bills sent out to anyone — we’ll send the bills to insurance. The citizens of Moundsville will never be billed,” he said. “(If someone does not have insurance) they will not receive a bill. We’ll write it off. We’re not dealing with sending a bill to a person’s house.”

Brandon went on to say that the majority of car accidents the department handles are from out-of-town or out-of-state drivers. He also said several other communities in the Ohio Valley impose a similar fee.

Councilman Phil Remke said he was in favor of the additional fee to help offset the cost of materials to the city.

“They’re losing money every time they go out,” Remke said. “Every time they have to go out and put down stuff on oil, we lose money. … Even breaking even would be helpful. This helps protect the city and helps with our income.”

The fire department is scheduled to return to the Dec. 18 council meeting to hammer out details of collection and a fee schedule, among other things. Council also is expected to hold the second reading of the ordinance that night. Council meets at 7 p.m. at the city’s building on Sixth Street.

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