Illinois Department Considers Charging Non-Residents for Fire Services

Chief expects most of these fees to be paid by insurance companies.
TARA GARCIA, Chicago Daily News Published Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Elgin Fire Department is continuing its efforts to recover some of the costs of providing services now by possibly charging nonresidents for emergency responses.

Elgin City Council members will consider a new ordinance Wednesday that sets fee rates for various fire department responses, including vehicle accidents and emergencies concerning power lines, pipelines, water and fire. Some of the costs are laid out per hour like the $500 per hour per engine responding to a fire while others are charged a flat rate like the $2,200 for a serious car accident where someone must be transported by helicopter.

Elgin Fire Chief John Fahy said the department could justify charging three times as much, in some cases, but wanted to be more conservative, sticking close to industry standards for the region.

Fahy said he expects most of these fees to be paid by insurance companies.

"That's what you have

insurance for," Fahy said. "To pay for stuff like that."

For the most part, the fees would apply only to nonresidents or businesses that do not operate from property within Elgin. But residents and Elgin businesses could see the fees if the fire department is called to respond to intentional, negligent or unlawful acts. Those will be determined on a case-by-case basis, Fahy said.

Mutual aid situations where Elgin assists another department would not be affected by the proposed ordinance.

Car accidents involving non-Elgin drivers likely would be the largest source of cost recovery, Fahy said.

The council also will consider a proposed ordinance banning the use of fire alarm systems that automatically dial an emergency line. Similar police automatic dialers already are prohibited in Elgin.

Fahy said it is mostly elevator alarms that cause problems for the department. There are about 130 alarms each year that go straight to 911, 95 percent of which are false alarms, according to Fahy.

If the council approves the ordinance, elevator operators in the city will be told to direct the automatic dialer to a third party.

If the council gives preliminary approval to both measures during the committee of the whole meeting Wednesday, they are expected to go into effect by the end of the year.

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