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Monroe council mulls program for cost recovery

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MONROE - Monroe council could take action Monday to adopt an accident cost-recovery program that would bill insurance carriers for manpower and equipment used at traffic accidents.

The ordinance, which was given first reading last month, would authorize the city to contract with a firm based in Dayton to recoup the costs incurred by city police and firefighters who respond to traffic crashes.

Police Chief John Michrina said he understands that assessing costs to pay for police and fire duties may be unpopular but would provide revenue for the cash-strapped city.

"I wish this was something that we didn't have to do. But the way things are today with the economy we have to," Chief Michrina said. "All the great ideas for saving money have been used up and now we are down to ideas that nobody likes while trying to pick those that are the least objectionable."

A public hearing on the proposal will be held at the council meeting.

If approved, the city would contract with Cost Recovery Corp. to bill insurance firms of at-fault drivers in crashes for services provided by the city.

Chief Michrina projects that about $50,000 would be collected each year in assessing the responsible parties of car crashes. He said a fee schedule that would be used for accident cost recovery has yet to be established.

City Manager George Brown said the cost-recovery program would help the city recover expenses its employees incur in responding to crashes.

"As the conditions continue with the budget crunch and the related personnel reductions in police and fire departments are to the point that our public safety resources are stretched so thin.

"The revenue from this is a way to assist those departments," Mr. Brown said.

If the insurance companies decline the bill or refuse to pay some of the fees, CRC would demand payment from the at-fault driver if that person is a nonresident of the city.

Chief Michrina assured that city residents would not be billed for police and fire charges if the insurance firms refuse to submit payment on their behalf.

Michigan and Ohio permit the collection on fees incurred by police and fire for accidents. However, six states, including Pennsylvania and Indiana, have banned the practice.

Regina Moore, Cost Recovery Corp. president, said her firm would retain 10 percent of the fees collected for cost-recovery programs. She said 58 percent of the insurance companies pay the bills in full. The firm, which began in 1999, bills and collects for police services for hundreds of communities in 15 states.

"City leaders are trying to do their best to maintain safe levels of service. The increase in demand and traffic crashes caused by nonresidents of cities have caused them to try to recoup some of the tax dollars and recycle them back into the budget," she said.

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