Harrison County supervisors debate first responder fee - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Harrison County supervisors debate first responder fee

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

A plan allowing AMR to collect a first responder charge on behalf of area fire departments, sparked some lively discussion at Monday's Harrison County Board of Supervisors meeting.

The board voted 3-to-2 to amend its contract with American Medical Response to allow for the billing of such a charge.

City and county fire departments often respond to medical emergencies, like traffic accidents with injuries. This amendment would simply give those departments the choice of having AMR bill a $150 "first responder fee."

"We created this as an option that if the cities, or I guess even the county, chose to participate with this fee established in our contract, then we would work with them to make it happen," said Butch Oberhoff, with American Medical Response.

County Fire Marshal Pat Sullivan said he discussed the proposal with city fire chiefs.

"The city would determine which calls are billed for. In other words, the city would give a list to AMR that would say, these are the ones we want to bill for," Sullivan explained.

Supervisor Marlin Ladner strongly opposed the idea, likening it to double taxation.

"My point is, what I'm trying to say is, the taxpayer is already paying for that service in the fire department. The fire department exists through the taxpayers of this county, whether it be the municipalities and/or the county," he said.

Although the proposed amendment "allows" for such a charge, supervisors were told by AMR, not a single agency is pursuing the collection of such a fee.

"Not one agency has said we absolutely want to do this. They were very interested to make sure it was available to them as a revenue stream, if necessary," said Oberhoff.

Following some debate, supervisors voted 3-to-2 to allow the amendment, with supervisors Marlin Ladner and Connie Rockco voting no.

The issue of allowing a "first responder fee" came-up during last year's bid process to choose an ambulance service for Harrison County.

Copyright 2013 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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