Carroll moving ahead with fire fee plan

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Citizens with a burning desire to comment on Carroll County's proposed fire fees, billed to insurance companies, will have a chance to do so in September, the supervisors decided Monday.

The fire fee idea had come up in April, and county supervisors referred it to the Emergency Services Committee for a recommendation.

The supervisors have received a draft of the proposal, which states that the idea is to "offset the continued cost of providing emergency fire protection services and to provide funds to equip and operate such services to promote the public health, safety and welfare."

To fund such emergency services, the draft proposes the county adopt service fees and charges for the kinds of emergencies — and false alarms — that county fire departments respond to.

The draft suggests ranges of fees for car fires, grass fires, residential structure fires, commercial structure fires and hazardous materials cleanup.

Response to grass fires, for example, could be set at $100 to $300, where a commercial structure fire could be $300 to $1,000 and so on.

The draft proposes to charge a fee of $300 to $500 to places with more than three false alarm calls within six months.

Proposed hazardous materials cleanup would be based on $100 per hour for responding vehicles and $30 per hour for each responder on the scene, according to the draft.

The county could also decide to charge for equipment damaged or destroyed at an emergency scene.

Funding provided to fire departments from Carroll County goes toward equipment and training.

This idea parallels the “soft billing” used by emergency medical services in the county, officials have said. If the fire department fees are approved, the county would seek these payments from the property owners' insurance companies.

Supervisors approved unanimously the public hearing request for September.