Denison defined its new fee structure for fire services Tuesday night with a crowd of concerned citizens ready to ask questions. The Denison City Council voted to approve a resolution that would define who would be billed for fire services under the resolution passed earlier in the month.
A number of citizens addressed the council with questions and comments. One resident asked what would happened if the insurance company the person uses isn’t in network. Another resident asked about clarity on the fees for residents outside city limits who still pay taxes. Another asked about the inter-local agreements with other cities for fire services.
City Manager Jud Rex said the fee structure ordinance was a continuation of a previous ordinance passed in 2013 that gave the city the power to define fees. Until this point, the council had not defined those fees.
Rex said the previous ordinance was already on the books and that is why the city staff felt it was appropriate to put the item on the consent agenda in the last meeting. He said the new ordinance was the second step of the process.
Gott started the discussion by commenting on the misinformation that had spread.
“There are some really good things about social media,” Gott said. “I get on social media to keep up with my grandchildren. There is another side of social media that their sole purpose is to spread disinformation. After we had our meeting two weeks ago, I had several citizens reach out to me. My first paragraph in every email that I answered was we are very glad to have citizens reach out when you have concerns about our city. We like for our citizens to be engaged and would you allow me the opportunity to sit down with you and discuss this one on one. There was not one citizen that took me up on that. If you are really looking for the information on what is going on in the city, don’t look out to websites that spread nothing but disinformation. Allow us the opportunity.”
Rex said one piece of misinformation that he wanted to correct was how the city will collect money from property taxes that can be used for the city with the cost of public safety alone being more than the amount collected. He said, the fees are designed to help cover gaps between expenses and revenue while not putting additional burden on the tax payers.
He emphasized the meat of the ordinance saying Denison residents would not be burdened by the new fees.
When it comes to residential property, Rex said the city will only impose the fee when the property is outside city limits and the owner does not pay property taxes to Denison. When it is an automobile, the fee falls on the responsible party so long as the vehicle is not registered in Denison.
The other types of property that would incur the fee are commercial or industrial. Those include multi-family apartments that the city recognizes as a commercial property. Rex said the ordinance is clear it does not impose fees on Denison residents, and when it says on a case-by-case basis that refers entirely to parties outside city limits and only when the city determines it is appropriate.
“This is a new fee. Even though there was an ordinance enacted in 2014, the fees were never established so we have not projected any revenue for this. We want to test drive it and see how it works,” Rex said.
Rex said the same company that handles the city’s emergency medical billing will handle the billing for fire services.
Council member Brian Hander asked for clarity on the wording for the ordinance regarding victims of crimes being billed. Council member Kris Spiegel clarified saying it would be the perpetrator not the victim.
After the discussion, the council voted to approve the measure as presented.
Rex said that the city is always learning from the things it does. He said looking back on it, he doesn’t know if the city would have done anything different. His concern was with people going to the source to get the right information.
“You are going to find terrible information out there. I think that is what happened. It grew legs and took off,” Rex said. “If citizens have questions about anything — if its on an agenda or not — call the city, call your council member and we can get you the answers you are looking for.”
Richard A. Todd is the Denison area reporter. He can be reached by sending an email to email@example.com. He can also be reached on Facebook and Twitter @RichardAToddHD.