Ferdinand to charge for some fire calls

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

FERDINAND — The Ferdinand Volunteer Fire Department will start charging for certain fire runs in the next couple of months.

At its meeting this week, the Town Council approved a schedule of charges for hazardous material spills, calls to Interstate 64 and calls to businesses caused by intentional misconduct, such as when a patron smokes or uses a vape in a hotel room or bathroom.

Residents of Ferdinand and Ferdinand Township, who pay taxes that support the fire department, will not be charged for fire runs, with the exception of hazardous material cleanups. Businesses in the taxing district also will not be charged for fire calls, with the exception of those for intentional misconduct and hazardous material spills.

Ferdinand Attorney Sharon Bohnenkemper said the main impetus for the charges is to remedy the “inherent unfairness” of taxpayers in Ferdinand and Ferdinand Township paying for fire services for accidents along the interstate.

“Also, when that equipment is [on the interstate], there is less available for the town and township,” Bohnenkemper said.

Fire Chief John Hoppenjans said the department has been talking about setting charges for certain calls since about 2012. The number of interstate calls the department gets per month varies, he said, but some months it can be as many as three or four, sometimes requiring Ferdinand’s firefighters and equipment to be at the scene for several hours.

About nine miles of the interstate — from around mile marker 61 to around mile marker 70 — fall under Ferdinand Volunteer Fire Department’s jurisdiction.

As for calls caused by intentional misconduct, Hoppenjans said the number of those calls seems to have increased in the past few years. Those calls generally take about half an hour and involve about $1 million worth of equipment, Hoppenjans said.

“You’re dragging out about $1 million of equipment for someone doing something they shouldn’t be,” he said.

In Indiana, it is illegal to smoke or vape in business bathrooms and non-smoking hotel rooms.

Bohnenkemper pointed out that the charges are specifically for calls caused by intentional misconduct, not accidents such as burning popcorn in a hotel microwave.

State law allows local fire departments to charge for certain types of calls as determined by the state fire marshal’s office. The not to exceed amounts for the charges are also set by the fire marshal’s office.

For Ferdinand, calls to the interstate will cost $250 per response vehicle and $100 per command/control vehicle, plus $150 per hour or fraction of an hour each response vehicle is on scene and $50 per hour or fraction of an hour that each command control vehicle is on scene.

The charge for calls due to intentional misconduct will be $300, and charges for hazardous material spills will be determined by the cost of the cleanup.

Hoppenjans said he knows of a handful of departments in Spencer County that have similar charges in place, but he has not heard of any other departments in Dubois County charging.

Jasper Volunteer Fire Department Fire Chief Kenny Hochgesang said that while Jasper has considered establishing charges, it currently does not charge. Schnellville Volunteer Fire Department Chief Mark Fischer said his department does not charge either. Other fire chiefs could not be reached by press time.




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