CARTERET – The borough will soon begin to try to recoup costs of responding to fires and motor vehicle accidents by billing insurance companies. The move is intended to control costs and maintain stable taxes, according to municipal officials.
Earlier this spring, the mayor and council voted to amend the fire-prevention codes to allow insurance companies to be billed for responses to fires and car accidents. The mayor “wanted to see if we could recoup for the borough any available insurance coverage, so that it’s not all borne by local taxpayers,” said municipal attorney Robert Bergen.
Carteret may be the first New Jersey town to bill for fire and police emergency services, but similar policies are in place in some Texas and Florida communities, according to Bergen.
“The borough is not going to look for any direct payments from residents for these costs,” Bergen said. “If someone has a policy and it provides for reimbursement for these types of responses, then we want to take advantage of that insurance coverage to help hold taxes down for the residents here.”
The ordinance specifies that an insurance company could be billed up to $1,000 for the first dispatched truck, $1,500 if a ladder truck is required and up to $1,000 for a rescue truck.
Retired fire marshal and fire-code consultant Bob Davidson is critical of the Carteret ordinance.
“I understand they’re looking for unique ways to enhance their budget process instead of taxes,” he said. “Well, it’s a hidden tax. The bottom line is their insurance rates in their jurisdiction will go up. People will be paying for this.”
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