Let's Hope This Trick Doesn't Catch On
THE SMALL CITY OF JEROME, IDAHO (pop. 11,000), has refined a novel idea on how to balance the budget. Whenever they have what is deemed an "extraordinary" fire, then they'll just require the hapless victim to pay for all the expense of responding to it.
Last month an accidental fire that started in an upstairs apartment spread through a large building downtown and got into two others. The fire, which as been claimed to be the largest in the town's history, caused about $2 million in damage and displaced a dozen families and a few businesses. Hardest hit was the owner of the property, Sylvia Moore who told KTVB-TV that she's had the property for 15 years, buying it as an investment property. She had an antique and second-hand store in the building.
"It was perfect for what I wanted. I could live there, have my store, have an income, and have my retirement all in one package," Moore said.
And then it got exponentially worse earlier this week when she received a bill from the City of Jerome for nearly $100,000 for all the city services that were expended during the fire. KTVB continues:
"I have to say this shocks me as much as the fire," Moore said. "Everything's gone… And now? And now a $100,000 bill for a fire I had nothing to do with. I don't think I need to be penalized for that. I didn't start a fire."
Moore gave KTVB a copy of her bill that includes three pages of Itemized costs including paying firefighters, police, equipment costs, and food during the several-day response.
"If that's happening to me, is it going to happen to other people in Jerome? You think you've got a fire department that's paid with your tax money… I don't know what to think. Really I don't," Moore said.
The itemized bill includes everything they could think of including street cleaning, police traffic control, food for workers, salaries for everybody including more than $3,000 for the fire chief. Even erosion from the water runoff was calculated and billed.
Fire Chief Jack Krill tries to explain:
"We billed at what the employee rates were for city employees as what the true cost of their hourly costs were plus the standard bills for these types of equipment, either the Idaho Department of Lands rate schedule, or FEMA rates schedule," Krill said. "The city of Jerome taxpayers put forth a lot of the efforts to extinguish this fire, and we want to try and recover that taxpayer money the best we can."
In addition to Jerome Fire Department expenses, Krill explains other agencies helped and need to recover costs and the public works department was also involved, adding even more to the fire's total bill.
"We did damage to the equipment, there was some damage to the city sidewalk and city street. That light pole that was out there plus the water runoff, the erosion, all cost the city money to repair and replace," Krill said.
Be sure to view KTVB-TV's eye-opening video report:
Krill says this is the practice only for extraordiary fires and gave as an example their billing for a tractor-trailer fire on the highway last year.
Read the full story HERE.
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