Board likes rescue fees

Published June 8, 2007

TAMPA - The City Council on Thursday gave preliminary approval to the Fire Rescue Department's plan to start charging for services provided at the scenes of automobile accidents.

The fees, which will range from $450 for an accident investigation to $2, 400 for extracting victims from their vehicles and arranging for air transportation to a hospital, will be charged directly to drivers' property, liability or casualty insurance coverage.

"It's a user fee, " said Tampa Fire Rescue Chief Dennis Jones.

Fire officials say they won't pursue collections from companies that don't cover such services or from individual motorists.

Mayor Pam Iorio asked the department to cut $2.7-million from its budget this year in anticipation of property tax reform at the state level that's likely to slash city revenues. Jones hopes the new fee will help offset those cuts.

"I do support this ordinance, " said City Council member Joseph Caetano. But he said he also believes warnings from insurance companies that the fees will result in increased automobile insurance premiums.

"It's going to come back and hit the taxpayers, " he said.

The Fire Department also wants to increase charges for transporting patients to local hospitals, from the current rate of $330 to $500 plus $5 a mile.

The proposed rate would be $600 and $10 a mile. Medical insurance typically covers those costs.

A public hearing on the fees is scheduled for the City Council meeting June 21.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or 813 226-3401.