WAYNE — Wayne County Commissioners are expected to approve a resolution later this month that would open up more funds for all Fire Departments county-wide.
After a brief discussion, commissioners agreed to change one county ordinance concerning fire department reimbursement fees to match up with the West Virginia State Code 7-1-3D.
The resolution to the ordinance is expected to be approved at the next regular meeting Jan. 27 but could not be approved Jan. 13 because it was not on the agenda for action to be taken, only discussed.
The change would allow fire departments to bill insurance companies up to $1500 for operation of fire units when responding to calls, an increase from the current allowance of $500 at the county level, which differs from the State Code changed in a previous year.
“Fire Departments in this county are dying on the vine and this is just another funding source that we have to keep our departments going,” Ceredo Fire Marshal Dave Caudill said.
Caudill brought the out-of-date ordinance to the commissioners’ attention last week and spoke during the most recent regular meeting Monday morning.
He said the money can be collected by subscription based fire departments (funded by yearly memberships, there are none in Wayne County) or if any department responds solely to a call in another area. The reimbursement does not apply in situations where the is a mutual aid agreement.
For example, if the Volunteer Fire Department in Ceredo responds to a call in Lavalette, there would be no reimbursement for used or damaged materials or equipment.
“But where we can really get our compensation if from car wrecks,” said Caudill. “ We respond to several hundred car wrecks every year and we do extraction, clean-up, stay there until law enforcement arrives to direct traffic, you know we have quite a bit of expense that comes with that, we put down oil-dry to protect the environment and so many other things and this law gives us the ability to recuperate our funds. We can’t charge for man power because it’s volunteer but we can charge for equipment used, equipment that is damaged up to that $1500.”
In situations where hazardous materials are involved, that limit can be exceeded as is outlined in the State Code and Federal Law.
The amended ordinance does not change the way any departments currently operate in terms of billing for services provided. Caudill stated that Fire and EMS services have always been authorized to charge property owners when responding to calls, but most, if not all of the finances are handled by the insurance provider, not the individual.
“We bill the insurance company, we don’t bill the individual. The billing is similar to EMS. We have to send out a bill, if people can only pay $25 of a $500 bill because that’s all they can afford any more than that, we aren’t going to take them to court over that.”
Caudill further explained that even though the Fire Departments could take individuals to court over outstanding bills, the departments in Wayne County don’t exercise that right.
“In reality, if you can’t send it to the hospital or arrest it, the emergency response falls on the fire department, we’re not interested in going after the individual. It comes with providing the service that we do.”