|Article Last Updated: 11/07/2005 04:20 AM|
|Fire departments look for someone to bill|
|GREG SHULAS firstname.lastname@example.org|
|MILFORD — With some fire departments in the state billing property insurers for rescue services they perform at serious accidents or fires, some local officials are asking: Why not here?|
Under a plan submitted to the Board of Fire Commissioners, the Fire Department would bill insurance companies for costs related to "highly involved" responses — from accident extrications to the containment of hazardous chemical spills.
Similar policies in other communities have helped those departments generate revenue to replace damaged equipment and recoup rescue-related expenses.
"It would not be for everything," Fire Chief Louis LaVecchia said. "We would pick the calls that we bill for." Insurance companies already factor in fire services when they draft rates for customers, fire officials said. All bills would be handled between property insurers and a third-party administrator retained by the Fire Department. Taxpayers themselves would never receive a bill. It's unclear how much money the policy would generate annually.
LaVecchia presented the proposal to the Board of Fire Commissioners at its September meeting.
He's preparing to give Mayor James L. Richetelli Jr. a formal presentation on the plan within the coming months.
The mayor said he looks forward to evaluating the proposal's pros and cons.
"It is something for us to take a look at," Richetelli said. "But we are not sure if it would be right for Milford."
If the mayor and Board of Aldermen approve the policy, the Fire Department could use the money to purchase another rescue truck. The city's main rescue truck responds to 4,000 calls a year and could benefit from back-up support, LaVecchia said.
In Fairfield, fire officials have used the initiative to replace equipment destroyed or contaminated during serious emergencies. "With the expense of everything, it works out well," said Fire Chief Richard Felner. "When the insurance companies make policies, they are already billing for such services."
The Fairfield Fire Department never uses the policy for minor incidents, such a kitchen fire, or to replace aging gear, Felner said. The fire safety director in Vernon handles all the department's bills, he said.
"We don't deal with the individuals," Felner said. "Most of the calls we bill for are on the Connecticut Turnpike."
Milford Alderman Joseph Garbus, R-3, said he would need to learn more about the proposal's intricacies before he could endorse it.
"It needs to be looked at carefully," said Garbus, whose Park Avenue house suffered serious fire damage in 1994, forcing his family to move out for several months. "I want more information. There could be an added expense down the road," he said.
Greg Shulas, who covers Milford, can be reached at 878-2130.