City to bill for motor vehicle accident response
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Posted by David Schott (+14763) 3 years ago
What are your thoughts on the City of Miles City charging a fee to respond to motor vehicle accidents? I like the claim that it won't increase anyone's insurance premiums. Yeah, right.

Miles City Star: City will bill for fire inspections, vehicle accidents

Quotes from the Star article:

For example the most common response will be a basic response to a motor vehicle incident, which will be billed at a rate of $435 per hour. Hazardous material responses fees range from $700 per hour for a basic response to $5,900 for an advanced response.

Additional services can be added, like $1,305 for extrication in a motor vehicle accident.


People are paying for insurance to provide the ambulance coverage, he [City Fire Inspector Matt Speiss] said, and now “we are going for the money already allocated [by insurance companies] for the motor vehicle accidents.”

He added that it is his understanding “that it won’t increase anyone’s premiums.”
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Posted by David Schott (+14763) 3 years ago
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Posted by Tom Masa (+1860) 3 years ago
So I am driving down the street in MC, minding my own business, going the speed limit and not drinking. Dave who has been hitting all the honky tonks on main decides to drive. He runs a stop sign and smashes into innocent me. I call the police because Dave has passed out behind the wheel.
So who is billed for the call?
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Posted by David Schott (+14763) 3 years ago
If neither of us has insurance then apparently nobody gets billed. They only bill insurance companies because insurance companies are a never-ending source of practically free money.

As for what happens if we both have insurance, that's a good question. Maybe both of our insurance companies get billed.

I bet the city's bill collection service was a big proponent of this fee because they get to collect a commission on every fee charged. It's like drug testing companies pushing for legislation that requires drug testing.
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Posted by John Uden (+210) 3 years ago
This is just the fire dept. billing for these services not the police dept. The FD wants an additional source of money to help pay for anew fire truck and ambulances. And in checking with our insurance companies they explain that their rates are based on the amount of claims paid out every year so if the additional charges billed out to those companies result in more money being paid out then yes your rates will increase. Two of us voted against this and I am going to try and get it reconsidered. If you know who your council person is I suggest you call them and let them know what you think of this issue.
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Posted by Joe R. Whalen (+225) 3 years ago
Having not attended the public safety committee meetings in which the draft ordinance was discussed nor the city council meeting where it was passed, presumably in its first reading, it seems odd to me that the ordinance was even considered. Was it reviewed and/or drafted by the city attorney as would normally be the case? There's no mention in the article.

I'm puzzled because the legal analysis of this question as submitted to the Montana Legislative Services Division finds that, while a city with a self-government charter may have the authority to impose accident response fees, a city operating without such a charter or under general government powers does not.

In November's election the voters of Miles City rejected a recommendation by the Local Government Study Commission to establish a self-governing charter. Therefore, I'm confident this ordinance will be successfully challenged and ultimately repealed as a clear case of overreach by the city if it passes in second reading and is not immediately vetoed by Mayor Hollowell.

http://leg.mt.gov/content...12hhga.PDF

Your thoughts?
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Posted by David Schott (+14763) 3 years ago
Joe, if the City of Miles City operates under general government powers then it does seem like it would not be permitted to charge accident response fees. From that Montana Legislative Services Division - Legal Services Office document:

The question of whether local governments and entities such as fire districts may utilize accident response fees is unclear and has not been definitively answered by the Legislature or courts in Montana. Because Montana law does not specifically authorize local entities to charge accident response fees, the answer hinges on whether the local community is vested with self-governing or general powers. Communities with self-governing powers may exercise any power not prohibited by the Montana Constitution, state law, or the community's own charter. Courts broadly construe self-governing powers and resolve any doubt in favor of self-governing authority.

Section 7-1-106, MCA; Mont. Const. Art. XI, § 6.
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Posted by David Schott (+14763) 3 years ago
ABC News: Fire Departments Charge for Service, Asking Accident Victims to Pay Up

It came in the mail less than a month after Darline Fairchild watched her family's home go up in flames -- a bill for the nearly $28,000 it cost the fire department to extinguish the blaze.

"I felt my body turn cold and I just broke out into a sweat," Fairchild told ABCNews.com. "It was awful. I said, 'It's got to be a mistake.'"

But it wasn't a mistake. The Fairchilds, of New Castle, Ind., were just one of a growing number of fire and accident victims across the country who are being billed for fire department services once funded solely through taxpayer money.

Already banned in several states, the practice of charging to respond to house fires and car accidents -- dubbed a "crash tax" or an "accident tax" -- has horrified victims and earned the ire of insurance lobbyists who say their member companies are being targeted to make up for budget shortfalls.
"Part of the sales tactic when municipalities consider this is, 'Hey, don't worry, it's going to go to insurance,'" Jon Zarich, director of government affairs for the Insurance Institute of Indiana, told ABCNews.com. "But it's the homeowner that's responsible once coverage runs out."

The Fairchilds' bill for $27,989.12 was itemized with hourly rates for the use of fire trucks, hoses and the firefighters' time, even a case of drinking water for firefighters who got thirsty. The total for five hours of fire personnel on the scene totaled more than $8,500. The use of the fire trucks cost more than $12,300.

Fairchild, who was shuttling her family between hotels when the bill arrived, said she immeidately contacted her insurance company, which was similarly shocked.

"She said, 'That's what taxes are for,'" Fairchild quoted the flabbergasted insurance employe as saying. The insurance company has since taken over the bill and the Fairchilds do not know if it was ever resolved.

"I don't know what's going to happen," she said. "I'm not paying it, I know that."

Insurance Companies Fight Back Against Third-Party Vendors

Zarich said his organization is familiar with the billing company that sent out the Fairchilds' bill. Most municipalities and fire districts across the country that have turned to these types of service charges contract with billing companies who then take a cut of the collections.

But Emergency Services Billing Corporation, Zarich charged, has been grossly inflating charges on behalf of their clients. In the last 18 months, the institute's member companies have reporting seeing their average fire service charges go from $300 to $400 to between $2,000 and $5,000, Zarich said.

Indiana's state fire marshal lists appropriate service charges as up to $250 for a vehicle response and up to $150 for each hour of assistance, but Zarich said ESBC's estimates are almost always higher. ESBC's Web site doesn't list specific rates, but advertises it's own rate policy based on charges for every 15 minutes a fire department's equipment and personnel are on scene, with the fees taking an emergency responder's rank into consideration.

ESBC spokesman Rob Blackford confirmed to ABCNews.com that his company ignores the state recommendation, saying the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, or CERCLA, allows fire departments to charge what they see fit in exchange for mitigating the environmental impact of an accident or fire.

"I don't care what the fire marshal says at all," Blackford said. "The insurance companies owe this."

He confirmed that the Fairchilds' insurance company was refusing to pay the $28,000 bill and that ESBC would be pursuing the charges in court.

"Every time you have one of these fires, it's an environmental disaster," Blackford said. "Should we make the person who is responsible for the problem pay or should we raise your taxes and my taxes?"

He, instead, blamed insurance companies that collect premiums from their customers, then refuse to pay when called upon.

"I think that's criminal. It's embezzlement," Blackford said. "They're taking the premiums and not paying the claims."

Blackford said his company would never go after homeowners if their insurance company refused to pay, but Zarich said they've heard an increasing number of horror stories about accident and fire victims being harrassed for payment.

Zarich said the Insurance Institution of Indiana would like to see the government crack down on ESBC, but has also been lobbying for an eradication of this practice in general.

"You don't want to be thinking can you afford it when your house is on fire," he said.

Florida became the most recent state last year to ban such fees for emergency services. Seven other states, including Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee, have some sort of law banning accident fees. Indiana banned police response fees in 2008, but the law did not include provisions for fire departments.

Angela and Ralph Piper certainly weren't expecting a bill when their 2-and-a-half-year-old dream house in Bryan, Texas, burst into flames over the summer after being hit by lightning.

The couple was able to grab their photo albums and rush out of the house with their three sons, but firefighters could do nothing to save the home, which Angela Piper said burned for more than seven hours.

Their house a total loss, the family had moved into an apartment at a nearby Christian boys' ranch when they got the bill two weeks ago for $14,650.

Fire, Accident Victims in Shock After Hefty Bills Arrive

. . .

Fire Department Chief: 'We Are Trying to Do the Right Thing'

. . .

Read more here.
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Posted by John Uden (+210) 3 years ago
Thank you Joe and David I now have the ability to argue this before the council and hopefully get this reversed And it was rushed through for a vote before it could be considered by the public safety committee. Thanks again men.
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Posted by Walt Meredith (+195) 3 years ago
Speiss, the fire inspector, said taxes keep fire and ambulance equipment and vehicles in the building and pay to staff the department but they bill the insurance companies to go to those calls and provide medical care “so the burden is not on the taxpayer.”


What's next? "Taxes provide the schools and keep them staffed with teachers, but they bill parents for the inconvenience caused by students actually showing up in the classroom... so the burden isn't on the taxpayer."
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Posted by r martelle (+302) 3 years ago
You've got to be kidding! Aren't the taxes in MC high enough? I know that this proposed fee is not a tax, but it will go to what is probably the highest tax supported department in the city. I hope that this proposal was only passed on first reading that that a second reading is required. Find out and attend the next meeting.

The city should not be nickeling and diming (oops, my error $500ing and $1,000ing) the citizens for responses that are already paid for through taxes.

Doesn't the Fire Department already respond to most vehicle accidents? Perhaps they will now respond to all even though it isn't always necessary. That will certainly raise a lot of money. Maybe if they only responded to the ones that need their attention, their operating costs would not be so high and they would not need these fees.

As for it doesn't cost the consumer, where do they get that idea? Insurance rates (Auto, Home or Health) are based on claims paid versus premiums received. So, all of these claims to the insurance companies will more than likely increase the premiums of even those individuals who never have an accident, but are unfortunate enough to be insured by a company the gets hit repeatedly by these fees. (Remember the multiple hail storms in Billings and the insurance woes there.)

How can you bill only those with insurance? Wouldn't the insurance companies claim discrimination?

And, as for taking advice from FEMA, don't the ridiculously high flood insurance premiums and extremely difficult building regulations tell you something?

I also agree, the issue of general-governing or self-governing powers needs to be checked.
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Posted by TiredofBS (+235) 3 years ago
Perhaps if the fire dept. only took a pickup with two extra men to follow the ambulance on non-fire calls instead of running a pumper truck each time they could save money on fuel and maintenance costs and not need a new engine and therefore not need to harass an accident victim for more money.
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Posted by Earl Bennett (+752) 3 years ago
By the way, Thanks John. My property taxes already went up a bunch this year. I appreciate what you do.
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Posted by gypsykim (+1560) 3 years ago
My understanding is that if you are in an accident within the city limits you will not be charged. It is only if the ambulance and fire department have to leave city limits to respond to a motor vehicle accident or hazardous spill. It is possible that these people live out of the city limits and therefore do not pay taxes towards the ambulance and fire services. And it takes those crews away form city residents for potentially long periods of time.

As someone who needed the services of the ambulance and fire departments on New Year's Day, I was grateful that they were immediately available, well-trained, polite, kind and professional. I hope that whenever you or I need them in the future, you experience the same. I wasn't charged a dime for their services.

As citizens of this fine community, I think it would behoove all of us to know the facts. You, nor your insurance company will be charged anything if your incident occurs within the city limits.
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Posted by Hannah Nash (+2501) 3 years ago
Reply to gypsykim (#370071)
Gypsykim: I re-read the article published in the Miles City Star and did not see a mention of this affecting only those OUTSIDE city limits. Do you have a source for your information? Thank you!
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Posted by C.J.Desjardin (+136) 3 years ago
Still waiting on that source...
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Posted by gypsykim (+1560) 3 years ago
It came from the ambulance and fire attendants I spoke with on Sunday.
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Posted by MCFRmedic (+133) 3 years ago
TiredofBS, first there aren't two extra firefighter's there is only one. And second why would we leave the city unprotected by not having the fire engine staffed by being in a pick up truck? I understand your idea, however it's just not possible. The fire engine needs to be staffed in case of a fire. MCFR only has three people on duty a day, two on the ambulance and 1 on the fire engine.
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Posted by spacekace (+889) 3 years ago
Reply to MCFRmedic (#370088)
Why does a fire truck need to follow an ambulance for just an ambulance call? I love fire trucks, but if I'm having a heart attack...I don't think a pumper truck is going to help my situation.
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Posted by Mary Catherine Dunphy (+2893) 3 years ago
I'm curious about what the numbers might show.

In the last year, how many calls requiring an ambulance were responded to by Miles City Fire and Rescue ("MCFR")?

In the last year, how many calls requiring a fire truck were responded to by MCFR?

In the last year, what is the number of calls that were simultaneously considered both a medical and fire emergency and were responded to by MCFR?
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Posted by MCFRmedic (+133) 3 years ago
Spacekace, that's a good question, and one that we get a lot. Long gone are the days when the ambulance was just a fast ride to the hospital. For lack of a better term, we bring the emergency room to the patient. This requires equipment and man power. We operate at the ALS(advanced life support) level. If somebody is having a heart attack it requires many skills to be done very quick. Another reason is the average weight of American's has substantially increased over the last twenty to thirty years and the extra help is need for lifting and moving patients. So we could respond in just a pick up truck with the third EMT but who would staff the fire engine? A fire engine will do no good sitting in the station by it's self if there is a fire. There are a number of more reasons, but it would take too long to name them all here. If you still have questions, or anybody else does, I would invite any member of the public to stop down at the fire station and take a look around. We would be happy to answer questions and show you some of the equipment that I'm talking about. Most of the customers we respond to are very happy with the level of service we provide and how we operate. Thanks again for your question.
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Posted by cubby (+2528) 3 years ago
That just sounds wrong when you call us customers. Makes it sound like your just serving us up a burger and sending us on our way.
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Posted by MCFRmedic (+133) 3 years ago
Sorry you feel that way. We feel it's a very respectable term. The fire department is here only to serve.
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Posted by cubby (+2528) 3 years ago
Being called a customer just means that we are being charged for something which is true I guess. Carry on I will go back to my corner till later haha. By the way I'm not leaning one way or another just added my .02
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Posted by MCFRmedic (+133) 3 years ago
No problem, thank you for your input. I truly do value the views of the people of our community. My reason for posting on this site is not to change view points but really to just provide info. I'm not posting in an official capacity, but as a private citizen. My forum name is MCFRmedic because I'm proud of the department and city I serve.
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Posted by cubby (+2528) 3 years ago
And you guys do a fantastic job. Thanks for all you guys do.
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Posted by gypsykim (+1560) 3 years ago
I can tell you that all three responders were necessary for my call on Sunday. If only the ambulance had responded, we would have had to wait for them to summon the fire medic and wait for them to show up.

Trust me, when you need them, you will be grateful that they are there. Again, they were very courteous, kind and professional when they responded.
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Posted by MRH (+1441) 3 years ago
gypsykim, it does not seem you would have been charged a fee, since this has just begun moving through the city council. Does the county not provide funds for the fire department, and how would this offset any thinking that only out of city folks would be charged for these activities? Joe Whalen has probably waited with bated breath for me to ask, "Is this why the county commissioners purchased an ambulance a few years ago?" It seems to me that adequate information was not provided in the Miles City Star article for anyone to really form a valid opinion on the topic. I will not begin to question where the omission began, but folks deserve to know what is really going on in our town.
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Posted by Hannah Nash (+2501) 3 years ago
Thanks for the article, Don.
At the end it talks about a Q&A with further information on the KULR 8 website. I looked, but could not find said Q&A. Anyone have better luck?

Also, there was no mention in the KULR 8 report of this being non-residents only. Some clarification on that would be useful.
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Posted by David Schott (+14763) 3 years ago
"We have a pretty tight budget city-wide, and we're just trying to generate some revenue without having to raise taxes or our equipment is aging needs a lot of repair. In some cases, needs to be replaced," he [Fire Chief Gary Warren] said.

If you're billing our insurance companies then it's the same as taxing us only worse because it's an inefficient way of generating the revenue -- both the insurance company and the 3rd-party collection service are taking a cut of the money.

If I lived my entire life without ever calling my local police, fire, or ambulance I would still say that I benefited from their services during my lifetime. Everyone benefits from these services. These services should be paid for through taxes. That's why we have government.
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Posted by Bridgier (+8302) 3 years ago
That's why we have government.


Socialist.
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Posted by Don Birkholz (+1142) 3 years ago
I assume if anyone has any questions they can go to the Miles City Fire and Rescue site, click on the Contact button, scroll down the page to the email box. http://www.milescityfirerescue.com/
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Posted by Erick Hartse (+8) 3 years ago
David Schott wrote:
We have a pretty tight budget city-wide, and we're just trying to generate some revenue without having to raise taxes or our equipment is aging needs a lot of repair. In some cases, needs to be replaced," he [Fire Chief Gary Warren] said.

If you're billing our insurance companies then it's the same as taxing us only worse because it's an inefficient way of generating the revenue -- both the insurance company and the 3rd-party collection service are taking a cut of the money.

If I lived my entire life without ever calling my local police, fire, or ambulance I would still say that I benefited from their services during my lifetime. Everyone benefits from these services. These services should be paid for through taxes. That's why we have government.

So would you like to help with the drafting of a public safety mil Levy then? This fee applies to service users, not the entire tax paying population, you seem to keep forgetting that.
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Posted by David Schott (+14763) 3 years ago
Questions for you Erick:

1. Where do insurance companies get the money they use to pay claims?

2. Do you think your homeowners insurance would be more or less if you resided in an area without fire protection services?

3. If you reside, work, and/or play within the service area of MCF&R are you taking advantage of the services they provide on a daily basis? Are you glad to know that if there is a medical emergency an ambulance with trained personnel is always on call? Do you sleep better knowing that if a fire breaks out in your home a trained and equipped fire department can respond within minutes?

Perhaps you didn't get my points:

1. Everyone who pays for insurance is paying for these bills.

2. Everyone who resides in the service area is taking advantage of the service whether they actually have to call on the service or not. We are all service users.
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Posted by Erick Hartse (+8) 3 years ago
"Questions for you Erick:

1. Where do insurance companies get the money they use to pay claims?

2. Do you think your homeowners insurance would be more or less if you resided in an area without fire protection services?

3. If you reside, work, and/or play within the service area of MCF&R are you taking advantage of the services they provide on a daily basis? Are you glad to know that if there is a medical emergency an ambulance with trained personnel is always on call? Do you sleep better knowing that if a fire breaks out in your home a trained and equipped fire department can respond within minutes?

Perhaps you didn't get my points:

1. Everyone who pays for insurance is paying for these bills.

2. Everyone who resides in the service area is taking advantage of the service whether they actually have to call on the service or not. We are all service users."



You still didn't answer my question, and Your line of questioning is also moving away from that as well, let's try to stay on one topic at a time. Now let's address one thing we need to clarify, tax payers and insurance customers are two totally different things. You can not compare the two, just like apples to astronauts.

One thing I think you should consider in regards to increasing premiums.
Example: My insurance premiums have never went up because a towing company increased it rates for service. On that note too Can you show proof of how others delinquent vehicle recovery bills are causing my vehicle insurance to go up?
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Posted by David Schott (+14763) 3 years ago
Reply to Erick Hartse (#370117)
Your question is, will I help you draft a public safety mill levy? My answer is: No, that wouldn't make sense. That is the duty of the fire chief, city council, and mayor who have knowledge of the fire department's budget and needs.

If I resided in Miles City would I vote for a public safety mill levy? Yes, but only if I was convinced the money was truly needed and being spent wisely.

Do I think that a public safety mill levy is a more economical and fair way to pay for the community's needs than attempting to bill insurance companies (and only insurance companies) for services rendered? Absolutely.

As for the tow truck issue, I used to work at a place that operated a towing service. We didn't release a customer's vehicle until payment had been made in full. Tow trucks and their crews are not typically government owned and operated. Towing services operate in a free market where competition keeps prices in check. And, your insurance premiums are absolutely impacted by the cost of towing claims that must be paid.

[Edited by David Schott (1/5/2017 2:41:49 PM)]
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Posted by Erick Hartse (+8) 3 years ago
Your question is, will I help you draft a public safety mill levy? My answer is: No, that wouldn't make sense. That is the duty of the fire chief, city council, and mayor who have knowledge of the fire department's budget and needs.


So if a Mayor, City Council, and Fire Chief with knowledge of the city's budgets and needs have implemented a way to increase funding how are you now a expert to argue with it?
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Posted by Erick Hartse (+8) 3 years ago
A article that for some reason hasn't been mentioned as much.



City's fire truck and ambulance fleet is showing its age

Published: Tue, 01/03/2017 - 3:17pm | Section: By Elaine Forman Top Local News
By By Elaine Forman
Age and wear and tear have not been kind to the vehicles in the Miles City Fire and Rescue department.
“The budget is always a concern,” Fire Chief Gary Warren said. “Our vehicles are wearing out and we just don’t have the funds to replace them.”
Mayor John Hollowell said the city is aware of and concerned about the problem.
Warren has put together a plan to upgrade the fleet but there is not enough money in the budget.
With the ambulances being of highest concern, Warren explained the problems.
The 1993 ambulance is out-of-service and is the only four-wheel drive ambulance the department has.
The 1997 ambulance needs extensive repairs and has a hole in the floor.
The 2004 ambulance got a new motor about a year ago and is always requiring repairs. It has logged more than 200,000 miles.
The 2011 ambulance is the newest and is “in pretty good shape,” Warren said. But, because they rely on it so much, it gets a lot of wear.

Last year the department answered 1,063 ambulance calls. With that number of calls it would be ideal to have three reliable ambulances and at least one of them a four-wheel drive, Warren said.
For fire trucks, the department owns:
— a 2000 pumper which is in the repair shop with front-end problems and getting new tires.
— a 1990 pumper engine is held in reserve.
— a 1993 ladder truck is “in pretty good shape” needing only minor repairs, Warren said.
The water tender built in 1983 needs “quite a bit of repair,” Warren said. Its water tank leaks and there’s not enough metal to weld, Warren said, describing it as “a patch on a patch.”
— a 2001 brush truck that is used to fight wildland fires is out for extensive repairs on the front suspension and the steering.
— a 2007 rescue truck and a 2004 Ford Explorer are in good shape.
— a 1995 pickup is used for general purposes and needs “quite a bit of repair.”
“Unless revenues drastically change, it’ll be the same and we’ll have to make due with what we have,” Warren said.
Fire and Rescue Lt. said in 2015 all the fire apparatus failed the pump pressure tests through the National Fire Protection Association, due to lack of maintenance and parts.
In 2016 repairs enabled three out of four apparatus to pass the pump tests.
Meanwhile the department is constantly upgrading its training to provide a higher level of service.
The local Insurance Service Office rating has recently dropped to a four with one being the best.
For a community this size it is good to have a three or four, Warren said, noting he is hoping to get to a three or two.
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Posted by Walt Meredith (+195) 3 years ago
I think it has been discussed before but it could be time to reconsider moving to an all-volunteer fire department.
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Posted by Erick Hartse (+8) 3 years ago
Reply to Walt Meredith (#370126)
Walt Meredith wrote:
I think it has been discussed before but it could be time to reconsider moving to an all-volunteer fire department.


Based on the fact that any competent person in the State has realized, read, or felt in person the effects of the State of Montana facing a unprecedented shortage of Volunteers, that sounds like lunacy.
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Posted by MCFRmedic (+133) 3 years ago
Walt - We do have part paid (basically volunteer) positions at the fire department now. Please come down and sign up. We truly need the help! We don't have enough volunteers to run all of the calls we have now, so if you really think that way... show up and start working. You see Walt, what happens is everybody has the answer until it requires some effort and dedication. So please come down and volunteer - I would also extend that invite to any citizen of Miles City that would like to help make our community better.
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Posted by Walt Meredith (+195) 3 years ago
Reply to MCFRmedic (#370130)
Thanks for the offer MCFRmedic, but I'm pert near 80 years old and unfortanately my eyes, ears, and limbs are showing it. Also I spend my winters in warmers climates now days. Its hard for an old timer like me to get around in that winter weather.

I am sorry to hear about all the troubles the Miles City Fire Department is having these days. It doesn't sound good at all. I hope things work out.
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Posted by John Uden (+210) 3 years ago
I find it interesting that MCFRmedic does not disclose his or her name nor do they clarify the post by gypsykim relating to that persons assumption that these fees will only occur on responses out of town when they will, in fact, be billed to the insurance companies of local residents for responses in town. And I have checked with two insurance agents and they both advise that insurance rates will very likely increase as insurance rates are established based on the total paid out on all claims during the year and with the additional fees the total Paid out will likely increase and insurance rates will increase. And the ambulance fund (money collected from ambulance runs) is suppose to cover the eventual cost of ambulance replacement so situations such as this are not necessary.
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Posted by David Schott (+14763) 3 years ago
Erick,

First off, I am opposed to Miles City having a volunteer fire department. I think the town should be able to support a full time, paid department.

I believe that:

1. We all benefit from police, fire, and ambulance service even if we don't actually call on those services.

2. Such services are best provided by a government authority.

3. Such services are best financed by taxes rather than user fees. It spreads the cost across all potential users.

4. Claims paid by insurance companies is really just money paid by the insured.

5. The insured are a subset of taxpayers.

6. If you make the insured pick up the slack in the budget you are effectively making a subset of taxpayers subsidize a service that all taxpayers benefit from.

7. Insurance companies have overhead. A $100 claim paid by an insurance company probably requires, throwing out a wild guess, $120 in premium dollars. (Obamacare required medical insurance to pay 80% of premium dollars in claims -- 20% was allowed for overhead/profit.)

8. The city uses a private billing/collection agency that takes a cut of the money received.

9. If the fire department raises the funds it needs to perform its job with "response fees" charged to insurance companies then you are effectively taxing users with a ~20% loss of tax dollars to the insurance company and another ~x% loss to the collection service. So the taxpayers are still ponying up the funds just like if they had been taxed only... what?... one quarter?... of those funds don't actually go to the fire department.

10. It strikes me as... odd... that these fees are only charged to insurance companies. That if an uninsured, private party is responsible for the fee the fee is waived. That sounds like trouble to me. I wouldn't want to have to explain that to a judge in a court of law.

11. Based on what Joe Whalen posted above, the City is probably already on shaky legal ground trying to impose these fees.

12. It's entirely possible such a fee will eventually wind up in litigation which could cost the City even more in legal expenses -- which would be further taxpayer dollars not going toward the fire department's needs.

13. Management by crisis is a lousy way to do business. Ideally the fire department budget would take into consideration the anticipated cost of replacing equipment and funds should be set aside each year so that funds are available as equipment needs to be replaced.

14. In a community the size of Miles City it is necessary to seek creative ways of financing your department through grants, acquiring used equipment, repairing equipment instead of replacing, etc.

In summary my number one message is that charging response fees to insurance companies is really just a roundabout way of taxing your citizens and it is inefficient due to the overhead losses to the insurance companies and collection agency and unfair because the cost of supporting emergency services should be shared equally amongst the taxpayers.

Rather than sticking insurance companies with response fees, if the department has a legitimate need for more funds, the correct way to do it is through taxes and the taxpayers of Miles City need to step up and fund their city.
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Posted by MCFRmedic (+133) 3 years ago
Walt, Thank you for your concern. I did not know that you didn't live in Miles City. Stay safe and warm this winter wherever you live.
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Posted by MCFRmedic (+133) 3 years ago
Mr. Uden. My name is Branden Stevens. I have not tried to hide that at all, sorry for the confusion. I have only responded to certain posts on this forum. I am following the chain of command and orders on the dissemination of the information on the billing for motor vehicle accidents. I suggest if you have questions or concerns that you (a member of the City Council)contact the Fire Chief directly and have them addressed. I believe the Chief and Inspector Spiess sent information packets out yesterday via email to members of the council. If you did not get one we can bring you one tomorrow.
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Posted by Earl Bennett (+752) 3 years ago
David, ... well said.

Branden nothing but respect for what you guys do.
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Posted by Cory Cutting (+1278) 3 years ago
I remember a long time ago... 1989... I was a part-paid firefighter in MC. There were 3 guys on duty at all times. Two guys went on the call, the other stayed behind and called in the "on-call" guys to cover until the ambo returned to quarters. The idea of running a fire truck with the ambulance was started by a fire chief 15 or 20 years ago I believe.

I remember thinking at the time that the rule changed to running truck if that was really necessary. Again, wear and tear on the truck, two vehicles running code thru town.... It makes no sense to me. In the large cities, they run a truck because the fire house is usually closer to the call and the truck gets there before an ambulance can. The paramedics on the truck administer care until the ambo arrives. Even big cities are moving away from running a fire truck on medical calls. In Aurora, the department has gone to the medic pickups....like the TV show Emergency!.... Even Billings is doing that now.

The guy who stays behind can still drive the pumper to a fire call and the call-ins could meet him at the fire. Running the large truck every time is crazy.
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Posted by Joe R. Whalen (+225) 3 years ago
Dave, that was the most lucid post I've yet seen on this forum. Thanks!

There's no denying that capital equipment such as fire apparatus, ambulances, water/wastewater systems, excavators, graders, trucks, etc. depreciate and require replacement. The responsible approach, of course, is to practice preventive maintenance, train for proper use, and budget for replacement well in advance of failure. That last part is best accomplished through capital improvement planning (CIP).

For years, the city council has been advised to develop a comprehensive capital improvement plan that a) sets priorities, b) budgets replacement costs years in advance, c) identifies funding sources, whether cash or debt financing, d) schedules expenditures, and e) follows through with scheduled purchases.

The failure to develop a broad-based CIP creates crisis, generally, and an impulse toward desperate measures and/or gimmickry such as accident response fees, specifically. When the council fails to summon the political will to plan comprehensively the natural tendency of city departments is to silo funding with their own planning that sometimes runs counter to the interests of the city at-large, creating turf wars between departments and through their proxies sitting on the city council.
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