In June, the council decided to charge people when the Tracy Fire Department responds to non-fire incidents within the city limits. Since ambulances aren’t always the first to arrive at the scene of a medical emergency, the city’s fire department goes out on emergency calls, too.
The new fees are a way for the city to make extra money while it suffers a $9 million budget deficit this fiscal year.
On Tuesday, the council approved via a 4-1 vote (with Councilman Steve Abercrombie dissenting) a contract with ADPI-Intermedix, based in Oakland, to send the bills. The city expects to have a billing system ready next month, but doesn’t yet know when it will actually start charging.
Residents will pay $300 for every fire department response to a medical emergency. Non-residents can expect to pay $400. There is no set cost for a fire department visit to a car accident.
The city is working out an option so that households can pay an annual membership fee of $48, which would cover the cost of any emergency aid given during the course of a year, said David Bramell, who is acting as fire chief while Chief Chris Bosch is on administrative leave.
Bramell said ADPI-Intermedix will keep about 15 percent of all the fees the city will charge.
Councilwoman Evelyn Tolbert requested that the city get an update of the program toward the end of this year, at least six months after the city has started charging for the fire department responses. The update will include how much the billing system costs compared to how much the city makes in fees.
Councilwoman Suzanne Tucker said residents are concerned about the new charges because they’re already paying taxes for city services. She said only some insurance companies will pick up the extra costs, and residents are worried how they’ll pay.
Tucker said one person joked if her husband has a heart attack, she’ll be tempted to light the kitchen table on fire to dodge the fees.