Accident response fees debated in Lima committee

By Craig Kelly -

LIMA — A proposal to recoup money spent by Lima first responders at noninjury traffic crashes was met with mixed reactions during the Lima City Council Finance Committee meeting Monday, with some curious as to how it works and others showing skepticism or outright opposition.

The committee met to discuss a proposal from Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin and Lima Fire Chief Bruce Black to enter into a partnership with Cost Recovery Corp. to bill at-fault parties in traffic crashes for the time and resources used by police officers and firefighters at these non-EMS crashes.

“As it is now, the taxpayers are paying for these responses,” Martin said. “We’d like to recover some of those costs so it could be reallocated to other uses. We want to move forward with body cameras.”

Martin said the cost to just store these cameras is almost $1,500 per year per officer, and recovering some of these traffic costs is, for him, the most fiscally responsible way to procure these cameras, short of reducing staff.

Cost Recovery Corp. representative Regina Moore Jones said these claims would be run through the at-fault party’s insurance first. For those living outside the city, the corporation would send them a bill directly, should insurance refuse to cover the cost. For city residents, it would be a soft billing situation, where the cost would be written off should insurance not cover it. Jones estimates that the Lima Police Department could see perhaps up to $80,000 per year, with the Lima Fire Department getting perhaps $50,000.

“It’s not a cure-all, but it’s a help,” she said.

However, this proposal was met with trepidation by several council members, who said this could hurt outside business coming to the city for fears of getting charged extra in the event of an accident.

“I’ve had more calls about this than any other one issue, even vicious dogs,” 1st Ward Councilman Todd Gordon said.

Also an insurance agent, 2nd Ward Councilman Sam McLean was very skeptical of the idea and said this could cause rising insurance rates for those involved.

“I can tell you that most insurance companies will not pay this fee,” he said.

That statement was supported by the Ohio Insurance Institute, which released a study in 2009 stating that 85.3 percent of Ohio’s auto insurance market does not typically cover accident response fees.

“It looks like it could be a potential alternative for funding other than a tax or a levy,” OII senior vice president of public information Mary Bonelli said. “But taxes and levies are reliable as far as coming up with revenue, but an accident response fee is extremely unreliable when it comes to budgeting.”

The matter remains in committee for further review.

By Craig Kelly

Reach Craig Kelly at 567-242-0390 or on Twitter @Lima_CKelly.

Reach Craig Kelly at 567-242-0390 or on Twitter @Lima_CKelly.

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