The Hollister City Council on May 4 put off discussion of an ordinance that would allow the Hollister Fire Department to start charging fees for non-medical responses — what officials are calling “mitigation rates.” The council in April voted 3-2 in favor of the first reading of the ordinance, but tabled further consideration of the ordinance until May 18 on the recommendation of City Manager William Avera.
Feedback based on the first reading of the ordinance was enough for Avera to encourage tabling the matter because “making changes to the extent suggested could mean going back and doing a first reading,” essentially meaning consideration of the proposed rules would call for a re-drawing of the plan. “My gut feeling is I may come back to you on May 18 and have you take action to dissolve the first reading and come back with (something) completely new.
The first reading of the ordinance was approved last month by Mayor Ignacio Velazquez and council members Ray Friend and Mickie Luna. Councilmen Victor Gomez and Karson Klauer voted no on the proposed ordinance.
Avera in April clarified that the city “has no desire to charge any fee for any individual who has a medical condition and calls 911. This is not that case. Never hesitate to call 911.” He did note that insurance companies for years have collected money for non-medical emergency services and the city should do the same.
Interim Fire Chief Bill Garringer agreed, saying, “Fire departments throughout the nation that have figured it out have gone after some of that money for incidents in which they could should show some negligence.”
The proposed mitigation rates in the ordinance are listed on a per-hour basis, with items such as a $435 charge to provide “hazardous materials assessment and scene stabilization,” which would occur “almost every time the fire department responds to an accident/incident,” according to the ordinance. Use of heavy rescue tools or ropes at an accident scene to remove a person from a vehicle would be billed at $1,800 unless “the patient is simply unconscious and (the) fire department is able to open the door to access the patient.”
The proposed mitigation rates included per-hour charges for fire engines and trucks on scene — $400 and $500 per hour, respectively — as well as hazardous materials scene charges ranging from $700 to $5,900. Other proposed rates were listed for false alarm responses, fire investigations, water incidents, back country or “special rescue,” responses to a scene by the fire chief and 10 percent late fees with a 1.5 percent monthly fee for invoices not paid within 90 days.