Maine council to decide new fees for excessive nonemergency calls

Individuals who call four to eight times in a year would be charged a $25 fee for each emergency vehicle that responds


By Nick McCrea
The Bangor Daily News

BANGOR, Maine — The Bangor City Council is expected to decide whether to institute new fees aimed at cutting down the number of repetitive, unnecessary calls for emergency help during a meeting Monday night.

Last year, one Bangor resident called for emergency assistance 171 times. Another person called first responders to their home only to ask the firefighter to hand them an out-of-reach TV remote control. Those are just a couple examples Bangor fire Chief Tom Higgins has cited as part of a trend of growing numbers of unnecessary calls for emergency services.

Deploying an ambulance, firetruck or both to calls like this can be costly. When a person isn’t transported to the hospital, the fire department can’t bill an individual or their insurance for the service, meaning they swallow the cost. In addition, these calls can tie up EMTs and prevent them from responding to a real emergency.

Under the proposed fee structure, individuals who call three or fewer times for a nonemergency in a one-year span won’t be charged any fee. Calling four to eight times in a year leads to a $25 fee for each firetruck, ambulance or other emergency vehicle that responds. Nine or more requests in a year will result in a fee of $125 per responding vehicle.

For businesses, the fees structures are more strict. The first three nonemergency calls would result in a $25 fee for each vehicle. The fourth call and beyond would net $125 fees for each responding vehicle.

Higgins has said the fees are meant to be preventative rather than punitive, and that he hopes he doesn’t have to levy the penalties against anyone.

Some assisted living facilities have “no lift” policies, which bar employees from picking up people who have fallen or are struggling to move from one spot to another, usually for insurance reasons. That means when someone can’t get up, those institutions call Bangor firefighters for help.

The council could decide to adjust the fees, but the Government Operations Committee backed the concept during meetings in March and June, recommending the full council approve the fees.

The meeting will start at 7:30 p.m. inside the 3rd Floor Council Chambers at Bangor City Hall.

Copyright 2016 the Bangor Daily News 

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