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Miles City adopts law setting charge for emergency response - KBZK.com | Continuous News | Bozeman, Montana

Miles City adopts law setting charge for emergency response

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Miles City adopts resolution to charge for emergency response (Miles City Chamber of Commerce) Miles City adopts resolution to charge for emergency response (Miles City Chamber of Commerce)
MILES CITY -

The Miles City City Council has passed an ordinance to charge for emergency responses.

The resolution states there will be charges for response to different situations, including motor vehicle accidents, HazMat incidents and rescue services. 

Fees will be implemented on a scale based on the severity of the incident and the type of incident.

“It is a fee for service type of situation,” said Miles City Fire and Rescue Chief Gary Warren. “The more involved the process is, the higher the rate.”

According to the resolution, the standard rate for a response to a vehicle accident will be $435 an hour.

The city law also mandates that individuals’ insurance companies will be billed directly, as to not burden the taxpayers. This will be the case unless an individual is deemed to have been criminally negligent or to have deliberately caused the damage.

“The billing only goes to the insurance company and they pay what they pay and if there is any difference we are not going to pursue the residents,” said Warren.

But the new law is causing concern for some, including insurance providers.

“If it comes to the point where the insurance companies have to pay that fee, it is 100% guaranteed that insurance premiums will go up,” said Miles City Farmers Insurance agent Mike Schmitz. “They aren’t going to have increased costs without having them paid for.”

It is for that reason that Miles City Councilman John Uden voted against the resolution.

“I and several other council people have experienced significant adverse comments from our constituents with regards to these additional charges,” said Uden. “Our senior citizens in Miles City are being charged and taxed out of their pensions and I didn’t want to see any additional charges being placed on them or their insurance company.”

The city law states the fire department has looked into different ways of maintaining their department and services and came to this conclusion because “raising real property tax to meet the increase in service demands would not be fair when the responsible party(s) should be held accountable for their actions.”

The fire department is currently in the process of purchasing new equipment to replace aged and worn out items.

“We’re trying to supplement the budget without putting more stress or demand on the city,” said Warren.

Uden said he doesn’t think the new fee is the answer.

“If they don’t have sufficient funds to cover repairs and the purchase of additional equipment then the department head, in this case the fire chief, needs to look at his department and make necessary cuts in order to stay within budget,” said Uden.

As for the insurance companies, they are unsure exactly how much of this burden will fall on them in the coming months.

“I just don’t understand the motivation of charging additional feels over our taxes for them to do their job,” said Schmitz. “I’m sure we will get more answers in the coming weeks as these bills start to come in.”

A similar resolution was passed in Prairie County where Warren said he believes it has been successful.

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