Government Fleet Top News

Minnesota Town to Bill for Fire Calls

December 15, 2004

PRINCETON, MN — Princeton Fire and Rescue Department is going to start billing for time spent responding to fire calls in its service territory, starting Jan. 1, according to the Princeton Union-Eagle newspaper on December 9.The City Council approved the measure at its Nov. 18 meeting at the recommendation of the fire advisory board. The board consists of representatives of the city and the townships in the department´s service territory. More than a year ago the council approved of the department billing for auto accidents it responds to within city limits. Most homeowners´ insurance policies have coverage for fire and rescue calls, according to the League of Minnesota Cities, City Administrator Mark Karnowski told the council. “Many cities around the state are already billing and collecting additional monies to help reduce the amount levied for fire and rescue-related service,” Karnowski wrote in a memo to the council. In the spring of 2003 the council had already adopted a per-hour rate that the department could charge other agencies if the department assisted them through the Minnesota Mutual Aid Program. The fire advisory board endorsed using those same rates for charging property owners for fire calls, plus the board made some additions. The additions were that water would be billed at $700 for structure burns and $150 per load for tasks such as cooling off turkeys during hot summer days, filling swimming pools and flushing sewer lines. Use of firefighting foam would be charged at $20 per gallon. There would be a minimum one-hour charge for responding to calls and the charge rate would vary with the type of truck responding. For example, a type 1 pumper would have a $300 per-hour rate, while a type 7 would be billed at $75 per hour. A type 1 truck could pump 1,000 gallons per minute, haul 400 gallons, have certain length hoses, include a 20-foot ladder, provide 500 gallons per minute of heavy stream and carry a minimum of four firefighters. A type 7 truck would have considerably less pumping and water-carrying capacity and would carry a minimum of two people. The advisory board recommended the money from such billings be placed in a special fund. Then at the end of 2005 it could be determined how it would be used. One idea the board suggested was to reduce the 2006 levy on the city and townships in the fire service territory. Another idea was to dedicate it to building or equipment funds, or do a combination of that and lower the levy. Any of the ideas, if implemented, would help reduce the levy, the board concluded. At the Nov. 18 council meeting, Karnowski said some property owners might object to getting a bill from the fire and rescue department, reasoning that they are already paying property taxes for such services.City finance officer Steve Jackson asked if fire and rescue should bill a minimum if it turns out to be a false alarm. Karnowski was asked on December 6 for more comment about the action by the council to bill for responding to fire calls. When the state cuts its aid to cities and at the same time begins charging fees for things that used to be free, and other municipalities, counties “and everyone else” are charging fees, “it´s difficult to raise taxes more,” he said. “It´s a user-pay mentality now.”

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