MIAMI - Rural and outlying Ottawa County residents in the Miami Fire Department's district may soon be asked to pay subscription fees.
A discussion took place at the Miami City Council's regular meeting regarding an ordinance proposal as an extension of previous billing programs for implementing a program to charge non-Miami Special Utility Authority(MSUA) customers mitigation rates for emergency and non-emergency services by the Miami Fire Department.
Fire Chief Robert Wright proposed an ordinance amendment to require a yearly $65 subscription fee for services to residents outside of Miami City limits, but within the Miami Fire Department's District.
Ottawa County Commissioners set out districts for each fire and emergency service department within the county.
“You can see that the Miami Fire District on the west side goes all the way out to the county line, it's a much larger area and further out then the city limits,” Miami City Attorney Ben Loring said.
Wright said going east the district extends to 590 Road and going toward Fairland extends to 130 Road.
“It would be based on a year and the other department's fees in the county go from $50 to $65,” Wright said. “They would pay that once a year and if they have an event at their residence they would not receive a bill like an MSUA customer would not receive a bill.”
The subscriber fee would also cover emergency response to vehicular accidents or events.
Wright explained without the provision, anyone outside the city limits would be billed for the service if subscriptions are not approved to be offered. Only MSUA customers within Miami City limits would not be billed for such emergency services.
With a subscription those outside city limits would not receive billing for fire or emergency response events.
Revenues from the $65 yearly subscription fee would go to the General Fund for the Fire Runs Account to provide equipment or other needs of the fire department.
Kruithof asked if other fire districts in the county offer subscriptions.
“All of them but us, to my knowledge, have subscriptions,” Wright said. “I don't know the number of properties outside the city limits, but let's say there are 500, that's potentially about $30,000 for us.”
Mayor Rudy Schultz said the City's fire department is legally obligated to provide emergency services to all residents in the fire district, and current ordinance would allow for billing to recoup expenditures.
“The ordinance now says we can bill for runs outside of the city limits but I have not seen it applied,” Wright said.
“We've been very inconsistent in doing that,” Kruithof said.
Schultz said that issue is what started the discussion on offering subscriptions.
“That's part of the feedback,” Wright said.
Wright said insurance rates are based on what fire district a property is located.
Schultz said the subscriptions would help the City of Miami recover expensive costs incurred on emergency runs to the turnpike and other locations.
“This is their effort to fix those issues and make it easy for people that do live in the fire district to pay on a subscription basis,” Schultz said.
“If subscribers don't buy a subscription, there would be a billing. If they do buy a subscription there would be no bill and obviously a subscription would be significantly less than a bill,” Kruithof said. “So, the customer out there would have to make a decision, 'do I want to pay a smaller subscription or do I want to take a risk that if Miami Fire Department has to go there' we will do a billing.”
Kruithof, Schultz and Wright reassured rural and outlying Miami Fire District residents and property owners that no matter if they purchase a subscription or not if they are implemented, emergency services will still be provided.
“We will not watch a house burn, we will put that fire out regardless,” Kruithof said.
The final decision will be made at a later council meeting.