Fire department to start billing

Published 8:54 am Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Members of the Kenbridge Town Council voted in favor of granting the Kenbridge Fire Department the authority to bill in the event of emergencies.

Richard “Dickie” Harris, chief with the Kenbridge Fire Department, made a request to the Kenbridge Town Council to allow the fire department to start billing.

Harris said the billing would be for the fire department’s services in the cases of car accidents.

“I can see down the road that the fire department, in the future, is going to have a problem if we don’t start charging,” Harris said.

Council member Danny Thompson asked whether the fire department would bill individuals directly or their insurance companies.

Harris said the department would bill the insurance company.

He said in the event of a structure fire, he said the department would bill the property owner.

He said the assumption from the public is that the Town of Kenbridge’s taxes and Lunenburg County’s taxes cover the cost of the fire department’s operations. He said in the past, the town has also received generous donations from benefactors who have since died, and no one has stepped in to take their place.

“We feel like this is a proactive move,” Harris said.

He cited organizations in South Hill and Blackstone who also use billing.

He said he is not certain of the revenue billing would bring to the department, but anticipates it could generate approximately $10,000 a year.

Harris said the billing would be dependent on the frequency and severity of the emergency calls.

Emory Hodges

Mayor Emory Hodges noted surrounding counties that have started billing, and said the Kenbridge Rescue Squad has already billed for a number of years.

In the event of false alarms, Harris said the department would not charge individuals.

“If people don’t have any insurance at all, we aren’t going to bill them for it,” Harris said.

Council member Wanda Gordon Morrison asked whether research has been conducted about how much fire departments in surrounding counties have made from billing.

Harris said the cost varies depending on the number of calls. He said while Kenbridge Fire Department could potentially see a $10,000 increase, a larger area like South Hill could generate three or four times that amount.

Hodges praised the fire department’s service to the town. Harris is cited as the longest serving chief in Virginia at 48 years.

“You guys have put a lot of hours in, and the fire department in this town is 100 percent volunteer,” Hodges said, noting that volunteers respond to emergencies in Lunenburg County in addition to the Town of Kenbridge.