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Published: Wednesday, 3/22/2006

Fee proposal for police services is beaten in Northwood

BY ERIKA RAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Recent concerns over a possible insurance-rate increase prompted Northwood City Council to unanimously defeat a proposed ordinance charging drivers or insurance companies for police services.

Police Chief Jerry Herman had proposed the rates earlier this year to recoup departmental costs including police salaries, benefits, and overtime costs when officers respond to the scene of a car crash.

Though the ordinance had initial support, additional research persuaded council to swing the other way. They voted 7-0 opposing it because they were worried it may increase residents insurance rates.

Down the road, somebody s going to pay for it, said council President Mike Myers, a member of council s safety committee. If it s going to be insurance companies, they re going to pass the bill onto their people and we figured that s all of a sudden going to increase insurance rates, which is something we don t want to do. It was enough of a concern to vote no.

The proposed rates were based on a payment scale depending on the type of crash, the amount of time officers spend on the scene, and the amount of time needed to complete a police report, Chief Herman said.

He said he was made aware of the relatively new program two years ago at a police chiefs convention and introduced it to council based on what some other agencies throughout the country are moving toward.

They decided not to pass it, and I told them all along whether or not you decide to pass it is not a big issue to me, he said.

Had the ordinance passed, the rates would have been charged to the insurance company of the driver or other responsible party unless the responsible party was uninsured. In that case, the fee would have been charged to the uninsured responsible party.

Northwood residents would not have been responsible for paying any out-of-pocket fees their insurance companies do not cover, according to the ordinance.

The ordinance was given to council for consideration because the party responsible for causing a crash could have insurance to cover everything from medical expenses to vehicle repair, but not police services. On average, there are 300 car crashes a year in Northwood.

The fees would have assisted us in bringing in more revenue into the operating budget to help us with our costs, but we ll be just fine without it, Chief Herman said. My job is to find avenues of revenue, and this was one of those times where there was an opportunity to collect fees for services, and council agreed with it wholeheartedly until the end.

In Fulton County, Swanton officials are still looking into the possibility of implementing a similar ordinance charging fees when officers are dispatched to a crash.

If implemented, the fees would help generate revenue for the police department that faced an uncertain future last year as a result of the village s financial concerns. In November voters turned down a tax issue for police operations.



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