Thu, Nov. 21

Jerome council considering fees for fire protection

The Jerome Town Council intends to charge the town's close neighbors for fire protection and emergency medical service. But first, the council must figure out the best way to collect the fees.

Fire Chief Roger Davis began a discussion at the Nov. 12 council meeting about fire department liability and costs while responding to fire or medical calls outside the town limits. During Tuesday night's scheduled meeting, Davis made a preliminary report to the council.

Davis said that a representative of Southwestern Risk Services told him the department is covered by insurance when making emergency responses either inside or outside the town limits, including wild fire assignments outside Arizona.

The Jerome Fire Department has historically provided emergency services to residents and commercial sites close to the town but outside of town limits. Council members have stated that they would like to continue providing the service, but they feel it is unfair to Jerome taxpayers for the town not to collect some form of fee for the service.

Davis told council members there are basically three methods available for reimbursing the fire department for out-of-town service.

Annexation of the areas served is one possibility. Forming a fire district is another, and developing a system of contracts for protection is the third.

Davis said annexation is probably the most logical method.

"I agree that annexation is the best way," said Jane Moore, vice mayor. But she said annexation needs further study and would probably require the town to provide better water lines into the areas to be annexed. "I'd be in favor at some point of pursuing annexation," she said.

Council member Tim McClellan said contracts are one solution, but he felt it is difficult to motivate participation when people know the department will fight their fires anyway.

Davis said the town could charge for fighting fires even without a contract in force.

Mayor Jay Kinsella asked Davis if the town could place a lien on property to collect fees for fighting a fire. Davis said that could be done.

Al Palmieri, town clerk, said charges for fire protection could be placed on utility bills. "Then a lien could be charged for failure to pay a utility bill," he said. The areas outside of town limits that receive fire protection free are currently served by Jerome's water system.

"Using contracts is the most logical step at this time," McClellan said.

Moore suggested that contracts could be used in the interim to provide coverage to sites such as The Jerome Historical Park and the Honeymoon Cottage.

The council did not make a final decision on the matter. Council members did, however, indicate that the topic will be pursued further.

In other action, the council moved a step closer to instituting fees and fines for library materials that are not returned in a timely manner.

Kinsella said that Jerome has not used fines for unreturned materials such as books and videos. He said to do so the council must pass an ordinance.

Kathleen Jarvis, town librarian, said she would like the fines to go into effect by Feb. 1, following a 30-day notice to the public.

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