Ambulance, Burning Fees IncreasedStarting Thursday, it will cost some Duxbury residents more to have an ambulance take them to a hospital and beginning in May, it will cost more for a burning permit. Starting Thursday, it will cost some Duxbury residents more to have an ambulance take them to a hospital and beginning in May, it will cost more for a burning permit.

These were two of the many fire department fee increases the selectmen unanimously approved at the request of Fire Chief Bill Harriman during a public hearing on the matter at Monday’s meeting.

Harriman told the board that he has been working on fee increases since he first discussed it with them during his budget presentation last July.  He said that his department did a lot of research of other Plymouth County departments regarding their fees as they too battle difficult fiscal times.

“Everyone else is scrambling as I am to increase revenues,” said Harriman, who said he used other departments as guidelines on fee increases.{sidebar id=4}

Upon presenting his suggested fee increases to the Fiscal Advisory Committee in December, Harriman said he and the board differed on one issue.  Harriman recommended a change in open air burning permits where a two-day permit would cost $5 and a seasonal permit would cost $25.  The Fiscal Advisory Committee instead suggested a one-time, seasonal fee of $10 ñ twice the current rate -ñ that Harriman said he agreed with.

As for the ambulance rate, Harriman said that the town’s fees are currently indexed to the Medicare rate which is established annually and many other towns use.  The proposed increase to selectmen was for the Medicare rate plus 30 percent.

Essentially, he said, this means that Medicare patients will still be billed at that rate, currently $300.78, but all other patients with insurance carriers or who privately pay will be billed at that rate, plus an additional 30 percent, or $391.01.

Harriman added that this change would also allow the rate to go up or down in accordance with a recognized standard without requiring the approval of selectmen and that he estimated about $40,000 per year more from the ambulance fees and $10,000 per year more from the burning permits as a result of the increases.

“Fifty thousand dollars isn’t a substantial number, but it will help so I ask the board to approve these [recommendations],” he said.{sidebar id=1}

Other fee increases suggested by the fire department include commercial annual occupancy inspections to go from no charge to $50, a $20 increase in fees for storage of materials such as ammunition, compressed gases and ovens and furnaces and a $5 increase in tank installation and underground and aboveground tank removals.

After discussion on when to implement the new fees, Harriman and the board agreed that the ambulance fee and other increases would take effect this Thursday, April 1.  While the burning season is almost over, the group agreed that a May 1 implementation date for the new $10 seasonal fee would be acceptable.

All three selectmen unanimously approved the increased fees.

Harriman added that he was also working with the town accountant to send letters to several citizens who are behind on paying their ambulance fees.  He said there was a “lot of money on the books” from these people and that while some think their insurance will pay it, many have received notices of a balance due to the town.

Selectman Andre Martecchini recommended that the fire department look into working with the insurance company directly to perhaps send individuals a bill of what is owed to them noting the insurance deduction so they know they have to pay.  Harriman said this would entail a change in the current system they use, but they could test this method to see if it increases payment.