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Plan to charge for fire calls put on hold

By Staff
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
A move made recently by the city's fire chief and elected officials to charge residents for services rendered by the fire department will have to undergo some more scrutiny before it is given consideration in the form of a proposed ordinance.
The subject was removed from Tuesday night's regular meeting agenda after Mayor Dwight Tankersley requested that it be tabled pending further study.
"There are several things on the table pertaining to the possibility of the fire department being able to bill insurance companies for services rendered," Tankersley said. "I've had contacts with insurance agencies whose homeowners' policies exclude municipalities from being able to bill them for fire calls made to residences within that municipality. At this point, I believe it's best to table this."
Tankersley said he would schedule a meeting with City Attorney Larry Madison and Fire Chief Steve Shelton when he returns from vacation to do some more research and study on the matter.
Council Member Bill Smelser said his own homeowners insurance policy states it does not cover any charges made for fire calls inside the city limits of Hartselle.
"In my case, I would be the one who would have to pay should I have a fire and call the Fire Department for assistance. Our citizens are taxpayers and they expect to receive fire service without having to pay extra. I don't think that would go over very well"
Rita Lee, city clerk/ controller, said she is making calls to city clerks in cities of Hartselle's size to find out if they have charges for fire service.
"I talked to Sheffield and they have had a fire call fee schedule in place for six months," she said. I was told they have collected a fee for a call made to an accident but they don't expect to collect fees for making calls to structure fires."
Before it was pulled the Number 10 item on Monday's work session agenda called for a discussion of a contract with Covenant Billing Corporation of Union Grove to send out notices and collect payments for fire calls made by HFD.