A proposal submitted to Peoria City Council would add a fee for some fire department services.
Depending on the help you need, it could run anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars.
“Insurance companies factor this in,” explained Peoria Fire Chief Ed Olehy. “We just feel that we should be able to recover this money that they (residents) are already paying into.”
Some specifics: vehicle accidents when you’re at fault and fire services are dispatched could cost around $500, going up depending on spills, fire or extrication.
There is a similar scaling for water rescues.
But Chief Olehy says the fee – which would be charged to your insurance company – would need to be paid back differently depending on if you’re a Peoria city resident or not.
“Outside citizens…I understand their frustration, but they’re not paying city taxes.”
Residents would have their insurance billed, then any leftover amount from the fee would be waived.
But out-of-towners found at fault would be responsible for any remainder of the fee, after insurance.
Peoria City Councilman Chuck Grayeb says that factor makes the proposal a non-starter for him.
“I believe (the proposal) is fundamentally wrong-headed, and it’s going to lose the city more money than it’s going to gain.”
He continued: “And, I think it’s going to give us a tarnished image.”
The reason for the fees is a lack of funds and recent belt-tightening from the city towards the fire department.
The estimated $200,000 annual revenue would be used to save fire jobs, says Chief Olehy.
“Firefighters cost us about $100,000 a year. That will keep two of our firefighters employed, keep them on the streets.”
Chief Olehy mentioned the department has been charging out-of-towners service fees for years, but in the past all money went back to insurance companies.
He also wanted to make perfectly clear: the fees will not be directed at or added on to fire responses.
“The Peoria Fire Department is not billing for people who have a house fire. You pay taxes for fire protection, you are getting fire protection.”
Chief Olehy also mentioned a similarity he saw in Advanced Medical Transport, Peoria’s private ambulance service, and how they charge for their services.
The proposal’s first reading will be Tuesday Night at the City Council meeting.