City to bill for collision clean up

By Sara Bruestle | Nov 14, 2012

If you get into a car crash in Mukilteo and an ambulance is called, you’ll now be charged a fee – regardless of who is at fault.

On Nov. 5, Mukilteo City Council approved 4-2 a new fee that allows the city to charge all registered owners of vehicles involved in a collision in Mukilteo for emergency medical services.

The fee will help offset the cost of a list of services provided by the Mukilteo Fire Department – including rescue, medical aid and clean up – which require the use of expensive materials that add up fast, said Fire Chief Mike Springer.

Springer said the fee requires the vehicle owners who receive collision services to foot the bill – not Mukilteo taxpayers. The average bill will be about $450, he said.

Councilmembers Kevin Stoltz and Steve Schmalz were against implementing the charge. They said it was just another way for the city to impose fees to increase revenue without calling it a “tax.”

“This is terrible,” Stoltz said. “If there’s an accident, a person who isn’t necessarily at fault is on the hook for these fees.

“I think it would start a trend of not calling for help, and I don’t want to see that.”

Examples of the materials the fee will cover include the Jaws of Life and absorbents, which are used to clean up oil, antifreeze and other spills. The fire department purchases these materials annually.

“What this does is it provides reimbursement for used materials – expendable items – that we can’t get back,” said Assistant Fire Chief Brian McMahan. “It’s a lot easier to reimburse the cost.”

Springer said the fire department responds to about 120 collisions a year, and that maybe 50 of them require EMS where a fee may be charged. He estimates that it will generate $32,000 a year.

The fee will only cover the services and materials provided at the scene and will be billed to each vehicle owner’s insurance or to the owners themselves, if uninsured. The bills won’t be based on liability. The average charge in the state is $445.

“I’m a firm believer of paying for the services you receive,” Councilmember Linda Grafer said. “Of all the accidents we have in Mukilteo, I doubt 117 were people who live here, so I would definitely support this.”

Councilmember Emily Vanderwielen agreed.

“This helps taxpayers to not have to fund negligence,” she said. “I totally support this.”

The service charge, called a “clean-up fee,” follows a trend for fire departments in Washington state.

Several others have implemented the fee or are considering it, including Snohomish County Fire District 7, Snohomish County Fire District 1, Lynnwood Fire Department, Everett Fire Department and Shoreline Fire Department.

“As the economy has tightened up, everyone is looking for a way to get revenue,” McMahan said.

“And, quite frankly, if somebody is driving through the community and they get in a wreck, and they are spilling stuff all over, primarily before citizens of Mukilteo have paid for that,” he added. “Now we’re able to shift that over to the person who is responsible.”

Before the fee was passed, Mukilteo resident Charlie Pancerzewski asked the council this question: “If the city is going to charge vehicle owners or their insurance companies for cleaning up a collision, why not extend it to every call the fire department goes on, and charge the patient for that?”

Stoltz said Pancerzewski was right.

“Charlie had a good point,” he said. “If this is a road we’re going down, we need to charge for everything.”

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.