.

Volunteer Firefighters Drop Effort to Block Montgomery County's Ambulance Fee

Volunteers and county reach agreement on funding; fee will take effect Jan. 1.

 

Montgomery County volunteer firefighters signed an agreement with the county on Monday that volunteers say will avoid a repeat of the 2010 ambulance fee referendum and allow the fee to take effect in January.

The , 18 months after by a 54-percent-to-46-percent margin in a 2010 ballot question.

The county projects that the fee will generate $18 million a year that will go to additional fire and rescue service staffing, training, apparatus, facilities and equipment.

“The bottom line is that the residents here in the county will be served much better because of the enhancements that will be made to the fire and rescue service with this EMS reimbursement,” said Montgomery County Fire Chief Richard Bowers.

With a county fire truck and assembled firefighters as the backdrop, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and the Montgomery County Volunteer Fire-Rescue Association President Marcine D. Goodloe signed the agreement Monday afternoon at the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department’s Station 3 on Hungerford Drive.

“We’re going to fund fire and rescue and public safety as a higher priority,” Leggett said.

The agreement calls for Leggett to propose an amendment to the fiscal 2013 budget and future budgets that would put 15 percent of the net revenue from the fee to local fire and rescue departments. The amount would “supplement and not supplant” the current fire and rescue service budget.

The additional revenue will not significantly change other parts of the county’s budget for fiscal 2013, which began July 1, Leggett said.

The agreement also outlines subjects for collective bargaining between the county and volunteer firefighters, including the use of vehicles and facilities owned by local fire and rescue departments, volunteer staffing of apparatus, grants from local departments to government organizations or private entities, and physical and other requirements for volunteer chiefs and operational officers.

The county chief also would work more closely with the volunteer association when proposing policy changes.

Click on the PDF above to read the entire agreement.

The first year of the fee will allow the county to purchase two fire engines, a rescue unit and five ambulances, Leggett said. It will also allow for full staffing for eight engine companies, 13 ladder companies and four rescue squads.

In addition, it will fund facility maintenance and repairs at county- and volunteer-owned stations, the purchase of protective equipment for firefighters, and the replacement of apparatus. It will fund maintenance, utility costs and personnel for , Leggett said. It also will allow the county to train new recruits and add firefighters in order to restore service at stations where service was reduced, he said.

County and the volunteer association will work to ensure that insurance companies will reimburse the county for the cost of an ambulance ride for county residents, officials said. Under the legislation, non-residents will have to pay but could submit bills to their insurance providers for reimbursement. Patients without insurance will be able to file for a waiver from the fee.

The county is exploring whether it could do away with the bill for non-residents, Leggett said.

“We still have concerns about out-of-county residents [paying], and hope to continue to look at the economic concerns, but the improvements that were in this bill are outstanding,” Goodloe said. “And therefore, because we believe this enhancement is going to benefit not only the public but career and volunteer personnel as well, we will not go to referendum.”

The 2010 referendum led to a bitter campaign between volunteers and the county. County leaders accused volunteers of spreading misinformation and telling county residents that they—and not their insurance companies—would have to pick up the $400 to $800 tab for medical transport. Volunteers , alleging that on-duty fire and rescue workers were used to campaign in favor of the fee.

Volunteer firefighters chose not to go forward with a referendum campaign that they thought would not be in the best interest of county residents, Goodloe said.

Volunteers, in addition to their own jobs, serve 50 to 60 hours a week with the fire and rescue service, she said.

“To go out and begin collecting signatures again is a chore,” she said.

Asked if he was concerned that voters would not get a second chance to vote on the fee, Leggett said: “Not at all.”

Leggett said that the had come to pass, including cuts to libraries and employee benefits and other areas of the county budget.

Leggett said the additional revenue generated by the fee is important for the county at a time when it will have to shoulder the burden of “what could very well be more than $400 million over 10 years in state teacher pension costs." The Maryland General Assembly in May approved . 

Leggett said the agreement was forged because both sides were able to step back from the debate that raged in the lead up to the 2010 ballot question.

“I think that we are a better county as a result of that debate,” he said. “We were able to resolve some issues that I think needed to be resolved and to put us in a position both financially and operationally for the long-term.”

Read related articles:

Jim Burnetti August 14, 2012 at 12:58 AM
That's a shame. The volunteers were right. The idea that this will provide revenue to the county at no costs to residents is laughable. Insurance companies will raise their rates. To believe otherwise is to believe in the tooth fairy.
gary August 14, 2012 at 01:40 AM
I agree - we pay enough in taxes in the county already. They are addicted to spending. tax and spend tax and spend tax and spend. When will it stop?
Ballistic Redneck August 14, 2012 at 02:58 AM
Let's see, now they tax us to drive on the roads (the intercounty connector), they tax us to get a ride in an ambulance, they tax us for speeding and running red lights (the cameras), what's next? I believe this fee is going to discourage people who are having chest pains from calling 911.
Bob August 14, 2012 at 04:44 AM
18 months between when the ambulance fee was voted down and our wise county council appears to ignore what the voters say, possibly may even think that it doesn't matter what the citizens say.
Paul Peterson August 14, 2012 at 11:33 AM
How much did the county council pay (tax dollars) to the volunteers fire fighters for them to cave-in and give up the fight? Well, when the Rockville Volunteer Firemen ask for donations this year, they only have to make two calls or two letters. They can contact the county council and the county executive for the donations. Need more money...raise the bag tax to ten cents. Just another reason to move to Virginia.
amarynth August 14, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Yeah, what happened to our right to speed and run red lights with impugnity?!
Richard Rice August 14, 2012 at 01:27 PM
I am personally against any more taxation on my retirement budget for funding ambulance rides or anything else though I applaud Kensington Volunter Fire Department for all the great work they do!!!
Kyle Walker August 14, 2012 at 01:35 PM
Paul Peterson is exactly right. I would expect that the taxes we all pay would cover something as basic as emergency ambulance service. If they don't do this they may have to make cuts to libraries, employee benefits and teacher pension costs. Hello. It's called a budget. If you can't afford it, make cuts.
Ddad99 August 14, 2012 at 02:00 PM
The County Council ignores the voters, yet they all will be reelected in November.
Michael Smith August 14, 2012 at 02:31 PM
There are over 300 taxes and fees that people pay for indirectly and directly. I would post the entire list but it would exceed the limit to comment on here. The thing is, they'll raise taxes to pay for those shiny new toys but after they're bought and paid for the tax won't go away, they'll just find something else to tax us with. Americans are already paying over 90% of their income to taxes, shelter, and food; there was a time when people would be calling for heads on a spike, hell the biggest reason we separated from England was because of excessive taxation! I guess people and Politicians never learn, tax the people too much and you'll cripple the economy and cripple your people's ability to actually earn money. Lower taxes and the government actually MAKES more money because people now have money to actually stimulate the government instead of propping up a failed government system. But that wouldn't co-align with the government's immediate best interests. Leggett, who are you REALLY working for? Because it sure as hell isn't your constituents.
Avocado August 14, 2012 at 04:35 PM
That seems to be the case! And I'm sure it cost a lot to put that on the ballet. A shame that they just ignore the result.
RotoRays August 14, 2012 at 06:46 PM
Isiah and Barrack . . . . two of a kind. Vote them bout in November !!
art slesinger August 14, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Nice that the Volunteers also support the Council ignoring the voters objection to this policy. One more reason this one party system has gone a muck. One would hope the ballot box would have geater impact.
jag August 14, 2012 at 11:07 PM
Gary, are you making a joke? You realize you CURRENTLY pay for emergency transport through taxes. Instead, under this new law, the transport will be paid by your insurer, which is the entire point of insurance and what most every single surrounding jurisdiction has done for years. I seriously hope you're making a joke.
Corbin Dallas Multipass August 14, 2012 at 11:29 PM
"There are over 300 taxes and fees that people pay for indirectly and directly. I would post the entire list but it would exceed the limit to comment on here." Hyperlink, yo.
Corbin Dallas Multipass August 14, 2012 at 11:32 PM
"Montgomery County volunteer firefighters signed an agreement with the county on Monday that volunteers say will avoid a repeat of the 2010 ambulance fee referendum and allow the fee to take affect in January." http://public.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/affect.html
Corbin Dallas Multipass August 14, 2012 at 11:38 PM
"County and the volunteer association will work to ensure that insurance companies will reimburse the county for the cost of an ambulance ride for county residents, officials said. Under the legislation, non-residents will have to pay but could submit bills to their insurance providers for reimbursement. Patients without insurance will be able to file for a waiver from the fee. The county is exploring whether it could do away with the bill for non-residents, Leggett said." How about, if you can't afford it, get the insurance company to pay. Does that work?
Corbin Dallas Multipass August 14, 2012 at 11:40 PM
"I believe this fee is going to discourage people who are having chest pains from calling 911" I can't tell with a name like Ballistic Redneck if this is satire. +1 amarynth
Corbin Dallas Multipass August 14, 2012 at 11:50 PM
"Insurance companies will raise their rates. To believe otherwise is to believe in the tooth fairy." DC has an ambulance fee: http://fems.dc.gov/DC/FEMS/About+FEMS/Ambulance+Billing/ci.Ambulance+Billing+Questions.print#0 PG has an ambulance fee: http://cms.princegeorgescountymd.gov/FireEMSNews/default.aspx?itemid=765 Frederick has an Ambulance Fee: http://www.frederickcountymd.gov/index.aspx?NID=1119 Every MoCo citizen that ever got injured in any of these counties would have had to pay these fees through their insurance. If the insurance hadn't been taking that into account already, that would be pretty silly of them. SOoooooooooo I guess the tooth fairy does exist?
SARAH ISSA August 15, 2012 at 02:31 AM
i wish you compliment of the season with great joy in my heart for coming in contact with you and i have a special reason of contacting you which i will make known to you when i get your respond o my email address (sarahissa130@yahoo.com) there i will tell you everything about me and the reason of contacting you . SARAH GOD BLESS YOU DEAR
Joe Thomas August 15, 2012 at 03:04 AM
You have no idea what you are talking about. We all pay higher insurance rates because all of the surrounding jurisdictions added ambulance fees years ago. They calculate rates bases on zones, not by counties.
Sean R. Sedam August 15, 2012 at 07:11 PM
Typo corrected. Good catch. Many thanks.
Zinger9 August 15, 2012 at 10:21 PM
You are so right! How can Leggett over look what the Montgomery County residents stated to him and the entire council when this issue went to referendum? What evidently no county resident realizes is that the "Volunteers" DO NOT have a voice or an advocate in the media. The UNION can afford to pay for whatever publicity they want. No group supports the volunteers, other than the volunteers. Ask Ike Leggett if upper Montgomery station #9 still has an ambulance for their community, answer NO, we are not important, die for lack of transportation, not in Leggetts problem pocket. The F______ county took our ambulance, because they can! Still the old "Doug Duncan" philisophy, the union money will get me to the govenors mansion. The nineteen volunteer corporations build the fire/rescue system in Montgomery County, they train harder at their own expense, have to pass their tests legitimately and really care about their communities. The only reason the volunteers conceeded on the Ambulance Fees is because they were threatened with the loss of their equipment and staffing. When is someone going to investigate the issue of volunteers vs. union in Montgomery County? The only people that are going to suffer our the citizens of Montgomery County.
Zinger9 August 15, 2012 at 10:36 PM
Dear Bob: We voted it down, that did not manner to Leggett. The amount of money that the county has spend on legal fees to construct their bill should be made public, like we would get the truth, Ha! Leggett states that the income from the fees will go back to the MCFRS, BS, it goes into the "general fund". When you figure out how much the county government has spent on legal fees then add the administration expense to legislate and do the paper work, it will cost the county money! But they will arrange their figures so that the true expense of this ludicrous action will never be known, except by the citizens who will pay increased premiums on their health insurance, that actually happened when this was first proposed, health insurance companies covering their A_____ just in case it happened when first proposed, did anyone get a refund? I doubt it. County government is just as corrupt as state and federal, the guns are just a smaller caliber. Been married to a VOLUNTEER for thirty-two years I do really know what is happening to our volunteers.
Zinger9 August 15, 2012 at 10:38 PM
Paul: You don't really know what the County/Union threatened the volunteer corporation with. I'm going to West Virginia. F_______ Leggett and his council!
Corbin Dallas Multipass August 15, 2012 at 10:58 PM
I get a "security error" when trying to read the PDF. Don't know if that is something specific to my case.

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »