The Mornin' Mail is published every weekday except major holidays
Friday, October 29, 2010 Volume XIX, Number 93

did ya know?.

Did Ya Know?.. . the Full Faith Church will have a parking lot sale to benefit Downtown Food Pantry Sat. Nov.6 beginning at 8 a.m. 736 E. Fairview.

Did Ya Know?.. . Spare Cat Rescue will present a low-cost feline spay/neuter event during the first part of Nov. Female $20, male $15. Call 358-6808 for details.

today's laugh

I took a package to the post office to mail the other day. The clerk said, "This will cost $2.40 for fast delivery or $1.30 for slower service."

"There is no hurry," I said, "just so the package is delivered in my lifetime."

"That will be $2.40, please."

A pipe burst in a lawyer’s house, so he called a plumber.

The plumber arrived, unpacked his tools, did mysterious plumber-type things for a while, and handed the lawyer a bill for $600.

The lawyer exclaimed, "This is ridiculous! I don’t make that much as a lawyer!"

The plumber replied sympathetically, "Neither did I when I was a lawyer."

"You think so much of your game that you don’t even remember when we got married," complained the wife.

"Of course I do honey," hesaid. "It was the day after I sank that 40-foot putt."


A Chronological Record of Events as they have Transpired in the City and County since our last Issue.

A New Rural Mail Route.

It is No. 4 Running to the Westward

From Carthage

W. T. Conger of Madison, Wis. arrived this morning as the special agent of the rural mail route division of the Post office department, to establish the fourth rural mail route here, extending to the westward.

He has appointed Thos. A. Flower, of west of town, as the carrier for the new route, and the latter has furnished approved bond and taken the oath of office, ready to enter upon his duties as soon as arrangements are completed. It will likely be ten days or more before all preliminaries are arranged and the approval of the special agent’s report is returned with orders to open the route.

Agent Conger is out today driving over the proposed route with Judge Hickman, and the proposed boundaries will not be known until he gets back tonight and makes his report.

  Today's Feature

Emergency Services Fee Stirs Questions.

The propose ordinance that would establish fees for Fire Department services is scheduled to be voted on by the Council at its next regular meeting on November 9 in City Hall. The practice of billing nonresidents for emergency services has become more popular over the last several years, especially for those communities that have a major highway nearby.

During the last Public Safety Committee meeting, according to official minutes, "Mr. Greninger made a motion to allow the fire department to move forward, with the adoption of a City Ordinance that would allow Fire Recovery USA to file claims against the responsible party for the costs the fire department incurs to mitigate an emergency incident and be sent to full council for their approval. All were in favor, motion carried."

City Administrator Tom Short says that any money recovered by the program would be placed in the Public Safety account and used for Fire Department equipment. This stipulation is not in the proposed ordinance.

Fire Recovery USA is not mentioned in the actual ordinance as proposed and no contract for services is included.

Missouri law (see below) prohibits police departments from charging for emergency services, but fire departments are not included in the prohibition.

The Mornin’ Mail published the entire ordinance as presented to the Council in last Tuesday’s edition. Since that time, there have been inquiries to this paper concerning the implications of the ordinance.

After looking for more information on the subject, today’s paper presents several different views of the practice of charging for emergency services.

Questions of fairness, legality, and double-taxation have been raised by communities across the country. Some communities have reported some success while others have implemented the program and then abandoned the process all together.

Insurance companies in general don’t seem to like the program and may be the loudest voice against the practice.

Several editorials can be found that fear tourism will be affected or shopping centers will be avoided by non-residents if the practice is enforced.

Several responses to these and other questions are also presented inside that are provided by Fire Recovery USA to fire departments.

From a California Insurance

Company Association.

"However, if you are unfortunate enough to be in a crash, drivers should be aware that there is a growing trend around the country, and particularly in California, for local governments to impose fees when police or fire department personnel respond to a traffic accident.

"These fees for people traveling from out of town are akin to a speed trap, except the costs can be much greater and hit drivers at a time when they are suffering the consequences of an accident away from their homes," said Sorich. "Imposing these fees creates a hidden tax - we call the Crash Tax. It is just another way for local governments to tap into a potential cash cow at the expense of the motoring public."

It is estimated that there are between 40 and 60 cities, counties and special districts that have imposed or are about to impose the crash tax.

In some cases, local governments impose a tax which can be $2,000 or more on just out-of-town drivers involved in accidents within their jurisdictions. Some local governments levy the fee on all accident victims. Still others target just at-fault drivers or accidents that involve fires or spill cleanups. These fees are often charged to insurance companies. But often these costs are not covered by insurance, which could leave the accident victim facing a bill.

"This crash tax for emergency response services is in addition to what citizens already pay through local taxes," said Sorich. "And even when an auto insurance policy covers the tax, the additional charges could result in higher premiums for all drivers. If the practice continues to spread among local governments, all drivers ultimately could be affected."



Not withstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, no person or entity shall impose an accident response service fee on or from an insurance company, the driver or owner of a motor vehicle, or any other person. As used in this section, the term "accident response service fee" means a fee imposed for the response or investigation by a local law enforcement agency of a motor vehicle accident.

Missouri Statute

The Cost?

"The vendor, Fire Recovery USA of California, will collect 20 percent of each insurance payout as compensation."


"In the last few years third party cost recovery vendors (Fire Recovery USA, LLC for example) have gone out and marketed to municipalities and public agencies such as the city of Chula Vista, raking in an average of 10-15 percent commission, 17 percent in the case of Chula Vista if approved."

The Florida Senate Issue Brief 2009-303 October 2008 Committee on Banking and Insurance

"States That Prohibit Accident Response Fees: Five states have banned their local governments from imposing accident response fees primarily because lawmakers view such assessments as invalid or inappropriate user fees. In 2007, Missouri outlawed this practice by prohibiting local entities from imposing such fees on insurers, vehicle owners or drivers for law enforcement agencies responding or investigating motor vehicle accidents. That same year, Pennsylvania prohibited its cities from charging these fees incurred as a result of police responding to a motor vehicle accident. In 2008, Tennessee prohibited local entities from imposing law enforcement accident response fees on insurers, drivers or owners of motor vehicles, but made an exception for ambulance services provided in conjunction with emergency response to accidents. Indiana also banned its political subdivisions from collecting accident fees from drivers or other persons for police agencies responding to or investigating auto accidents. Georgia’s ban was much broader in that it outlawed counties and cities from imposing fees on insurance companies for "any" kind of service provided by local governments for auto accidents, but provided for three exceptions: 1) where coverage for services was provided by the insurer to the policyholder and services were lawfully billed to the policyholder; 2) where the policyholder’s medical insurance covered emergency medical services and the policyholder made an assignment to the service provider; or 3) where other services are provided to the policyholder by the local government which are expressly authorized by state or federal law to be billed directly to the insurer."

Proposed Vendor

Fire Recovery USA


Here are answers to some questions we have received from Fire Departments.

"Why bill for Motor Vehicle Incidents?

In today’s economic environment, governmental entities are facing two conflicting stresses as they strive to efficiently operate their Fire Departments. Most areas are seeing a decrease in their tax base while also a seeing consistent, if not increasing, demand for emergency response calls. They recognize the large tax burden that is already being borne by their residents and realize a tax increase isn’t the correct course of action.

They also know incident victims deserve the highest level of response to prevent loss of life. They don’t want to enact measures (brownouts, layoffs, etc.) that will reduce the levels of service, i.e.: longer response times. Therefore, Fire Departments are searching for new ways to avoid increasing taxes and/or decreasing levels of service. Fire

Departments are searching for non-traditional answers to avoid the unacceptable responses of increasing taxes and/or decreasing levels of service. One such measure being adopted to defray emergency response costs is the filing of claims against the at fault responsible party in vehicle incidents.

Is billing really justifiable?

Many local governments see their Fire Departments as infrastructure provided by taxpayers, but believe the cost of mitigating a various incidents should be borne by the responsible party.

Adopting these widely accepted mitigation rates as a basis, cities and counties easily support filing claims against the at-fault responsible party for the cost of mitigating the emergency response resulting from their actions.

Also, in regards to motor vehicle incidents, many Fire Departments provide emergency services to non-resident drivers who are not part of the Fire Department’s tax base. For this reason, many cities and counties adopt ordinances allowing them to file claims against at-fault, non-resident drivers; however, local residents remain uncharged. In this case, this program is not double taxation because there is no out of pocket expense to taxpayers. In fact, all costs recovered are a direct benefit to the taxpayer and the community in which their safety service department is committed to protect and serve.

Is this double taxation?

The short answer is no, it’s not. Our service is simply the attempt to recover a portion of the costs incurred to mitigate an emergency incident.

The confusion lies in the misunderstanding of the "Municipal Cost Recovery Rule". This rule bans government agencies from suing for some response costs. The courts came to the conclusion that this was a type of "taxation through litigation".

The court felt, however, that if the local government agrees that the costs of certain public services should be borne by the parties whose conduct necessitates that service (rather than the taxpayers in general), then it has the right to enact a statute by ordinance or resolution to expressly authorize recovery of such cost.

Virtually all state legislatures have passed laws stating that the responsible party is liable for the mitigation costs of those incidents, rather than the taxpayers in general. Most municipalities need to pass ordinances to specifically define what they will hold the responsible party accountable for.

Is billing legal?

In all states it’s legal to bill for some services a fire department provides. Depending on the state and local laws, most fire departments can recover many of their costs for responding to emergencies like motor vehicle incidents, hazmat calls, car fires, false alarms, gas pipeline and power line incidents, structure fires, water incidents, special rescue calls, and more.

Some states are more restrictive, but it is still legal to bill for many services. There are websites saying it’s illegal to bill in some states, but that’s false and usually in regards to police departments - the laws have nothing to do with our fire departments. We have a database of laws by state, so if a fire department wants to know their options to bill, they can just email or call us.

How long has fire department billing been around?

Some fire departments have been billing for services for over 15 years although it has become much more common in recent years. This is very similar to when ambulance billing began a few decades ago. The reality is most fire department’s funding is down while their costs are steady or rising. Many fire departments have only three choices; they can lower services, increase taxes, or begin billing the at-fault party for services rendered.

How much will your billing service cost?

There is absolutely no charge to you. We simply take a portion of only what we collect as our fee.

What is the potential revenue for billing Motor Vehicle Incidents?

Because we have the highest collection rate in the industry, our clients average about $500 per run!

How were these mitigation rates established?

Fire Recovery USA surveyed dozens of fire departments nationwide in order to determine the average time-on-scene, type of equipment, materials and supplies, and labor used during the various types of responses that we wanted to pursue for our clients. The mitigation rates were determined by itemizing costs for a typical run (from the time a fire apparatus leaves the station until it returns to the station).

Using these surveys we put together various "billing levels" to describe the typical responses a fire department provides to various incidents. These levels are based on a normal response for each category. Being an average, some of the actual calls would have justified a slightly higher billing level while others would have justified a slightly lower billing level.

These rates are based on actual mitigation costs using amortized schedules for apparatus (including useful life, equipment, repairs, and maintenance). Labor rates include an average department’s actual burdened costs and not just a firefighter’s wage. These true costs include wages, retirement benefits, health benefits, workers comp, etc.

Have these rates been accepted by the industry?

Using our current client base as a sample, our actual collection rate of over 75% for several years is proof that these rates have been justified to the satisfaction of the insurance companies paying these claims.

And why wouldn’t they be? These rates are real – they’re the actual mitigation costs to provide the services rendered. The small amount of claims not being paid (less than 25%) are typically due to things like an excluded driver on the policy, the insurance policy’s limits being exceeded, a lapse in the policy, or some other unusual occurrence."

Just Jake Talkin'

The commercial showin’ a group of generation X’ers sittin’ ‘round the campfire sippin’ on a can a brew. "It doesn’t get any better than this," one of them says with authority. I would ask again, "how does he know?"

I can understand a statement such as "this is the life," or "things could be a lot worse," but I have never been one ta think it is impossible to be better. Once that thought process begins, all innovations cease. We become protective of even the slightest modification and fear any alteration of what has become the norm.

Even Edison continued modifications on the light bulb after the basic formula was discovered. His work has been improved over the years. ‘Course he prob’ly didn’t spend much time sittin’ ‘round the campfire.

This is some fact, but mostly,

Just Jake Talkin’.

Sponsored by Carthage Printing Services

Weekly Columns


ART NOTES from Hyde House

by Sally Armstrong, Director of artCentral

If you have driven around colorful Carthage in the past few weeks, you possibly noticed a couple of things. During Maple Leaf week, on Thursday and Friday, you may have seen a number of artists painting at their easels along the streets and downtown and wondered who they were and what they were doing. As I noted in a prior article, these were the 16 entrants in the first annual "Maple Leaf Artists’ Rendezvous & Paint Out" and I left you in the prior article, about to attend the closing contest and sales event at the Phelps House that Friday evening. Well, the event and sale were a huge success, with most of the paintings done during those two days being sold that night, some with frames and most without. The winners were Patty Beavers of Anderson, 500.00 and first place for a beautiful pastel portrait done at Kellog Lake, John Lasater of Silom Springs, 300.00 and second place for a beautiful oil painting of the Jasper County courthouse, and Helen Kunze of Carthage, 100.00 and third place for her oil painting of maple leaves. Three honorable mentions were given as well. Cherry Babcock tells me she will sponsor the event again next year, and artCentral will assist, making it much larger and including additional artists from a greater distance to our town of "many scenic possibilities’! Look for this Maple Leaf art event next year, and plan to attend the evening "wrap-up" when the various paintings are displayed and sold. There was some outstanding work done!

The second thing you saw just last week were the new pink artCentral tear-drop flags announcing the opening of our current exhibition. These six flags were a big success in our estimation, as a lot of folks told us they were seen, they did not blow down, and (knock wood) were not vandalized—so big success! Watch for these flags in the future, just a day or two before we open a new show and know that they are there to remind you to come to artCentral that Friday night for some good refreshments and beautiful and interesting art to view, and always FREE! Our opening night was well attended and the artists were present at this new show, "Spring River Artists: Catching the Current" which will remain in the gallery weekends through November 7th. Come see us!

Copyright 1997-2010 by Heritage Publishing. All rights reserved.