Bennington FD may charge for responding to non-emergency calls

BENNINGTON, Vt. (NEWS10) – A new ordinance in the town of Bennington will have residents paying for non-emergency response calls.

The town passed a service reimbursement ordinance that would bill a person’s insurance company for calls involving negligence, car accidents and controlled burns.

“The person was careless, left the fire unattended or was burning without a permit,” Bennington town manager Stuart Hurd said. “That would be a situation where the homeowners insurance would be billed by the fire department.”

Most insurance plans already cover the starting flat rate of $500. But after two hours, the dollar amount increases $250 per truck and $25 per person per hour. The extra expenses are sometimes no longer covered by the insurance company.

“They’re not necessarily going to cover the entire costs,” Nationwide Insurance Agent Don Miller said. “It’s usually a dollar amount.”

It could also begin to affect premiums.

“Nine times out of 10 your car insurance and your house insurance goes up,” Miller said.

But the money from the ordinance would pay for fire department equipment replacement, lifting the burden off taxpayers, and some people hope it will make others think twice before creating a false alarm.

“They should be billed,” Bennington resident Francis Bilotta said. “If you’re calling for something ridiculous, you should pay the full force.”

Hurd said residents without insurance may have to pay the entire bill.

“It might be something you work out with the individual,” he said. “Some sort of a payment plan, or you simply eat the loss.”

The ordinance takes effect the second week of June, and it will include an appeal process if needed.

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