A fire department is an expensive proposition, even one staffed by volunteers. The city of Missouri Valley, Iowa has decided to start billing residents for fire calls.
“I think it's inevitable that we are going to be paying for more services out of our own pocket.” Chiropractor Jim Hoyt sums up his views pretty simply. "We want the best so we have to pay for the best."
The public safety fee for service plan will have the city send a bill to property owners after a Missouri Valley fire call. The price will be based on how many units respond and for how long. For example, most fire trucks would be billed at $150 per hour, a pumper at $350.
It's happening because of exploding costs to equip and train firefighters. Supporters say it's either a fee for service or higher taxes. Minnie Fisher owns a store on Main Street. "I think that it's justifiable and everybody should carry insurance and it should be a part of your policy to be able to cover that.”
Retired newspaper editor Pete Graham thinks billing people for fire calls is a bad idea. "There is that question of how fair is it to have a billing system for emergencies that people can't help and you know maybe there is a possibility that somebody might be loath to call 911 if they thought they were going to get a large bill that would wipe them out.”
It is expected the fire department bills would be paid by the homeowner’s insurance.
Missouri Valley is not the first city to bill for fire services. At least two other municipalities in the state now charge for fire calls.