YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Youngstown City Council — in a much closer vote than what was expected — approved allowing the fire department to start charging for some of its services, like clean-ups of hazardous materials, water incidents and car accidents.
As Youngstown Fire Chief Barry Finley looked on, Youngstown City Council voted 4 to 3 to allow for what is known as “soft billing,” in which the fire department will bill insurance companies for certain services involving people who live outside of Youngstown. City residents will pay no additional fees.
While Lauren McNally, Basia Adamczak and Julius Oliver voted against it, Anita Davis, Mike Ray, Nate Pinkard and TJ Rogers voted for it.
“I think it’s a smart thing to do for our fire department,” Rogers said. “It’s a way for them to generate revenue. As we all know, we’re hurting, from a budget perspective, in our fire department.”
Here some of the services and what the charges will be:
– Auto accidents: $487
– Car fires: $677
– Water incidents: $448
– Advanced response on a hazardous materials incident: $6,608
If the insurance company for someone living outside of Youngstown pays only a percentage of what’s billed, the person is responsible for the remaining amount.
People living in Youngstown will not have to pay the remaining amount.
No one will be charged for fighting a fire.
“It may deter people from coming downtown at a time when we’re really trying to build up our downtown,” McNally said.
McNally voted no because she said people living outside of Youngstown who work in Youngstown should not have to pay extra because they already pay the city income tax.
Then there’s what she called the moral perspective.
“I really think car accidents are car accidents,” she said. “They’re traumatic enough. To slap somebody with an out-of-pocket bill after they have a car accident is just not being a good steward of the community, in my opinion.”
Youngstown City Council also approved creating a self-insurance fund for city employees. Finance Director Kyle Miasek said they will be self-insured for vision and dental.
The cost for employees will remain the same, but the city should save between $60,000 and $70,000 a year. Full medical self-insurance may come in 2021 or 2022.