St. Andrews tables "accident service fee" ordinance again - WCBD-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Charleston, SC

St. Andrews tables "accident service fee" ordinance again

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For the third time, the St. Andrews Public Service District has tabled an accident service fee ordinance.

The ordinance calls for charging drivers, who are not from the district, if they get into an at-fault car accident and fire trucks must report to the scene.  This comes after the district joined into an automatic aid agreement with several other city fire departments. Officials claim the district's firefighters have had to respond to a 300% increase in calls since they entered into that agreement.

The St. Andrews Fire Chief said that increase has required the department to spend more money, updating and fixing its equipment. Officials said they need more money to support the firefighters, but they aren't willing to raise taxes.

Tuesday night's meeting was filled with more than 20 people, including representatives from several insurance companies.  Last month, district officials said the insurance companies would pay the bill drivers would receive. Monday, however, representatives said many companies won't pay that bill.

They claim 14 states have banned these type of fees nation-wide.

"It hasn't gone the way that it's been promised," spokesperson Russ Dubisky said. "Number one, we've seen that the revenues haven't been what were expected. Number, two we see that a lot of times the insurance carriers aren't paying these fees."

Many residents at the meeting said it's not fair to charge drivers for a service they expect.

"I travel [Highway 61] every day," Joseph Sacca said. "I have to go to church, so i'm in the area a lot. I don't want them to charge anybody. I think it's unnecessary."

The district's chairperson Charlie Ledford was a supporter of the ordinance at last month's meeting.  Monday, however, he seemed less supportive of the measure saying it may not be worth the resources spent to collect the fees.

"I don't know if they'll be enough revenue to make it worth it," Ledford said. "The time to go through all the steps and procedures, is it going to be worth it to generate few thousand dollars."

After the public hearing Monday, the board unanimously voted to table the ordinance until its May meeting.

Even with more public attention, district officials have remained very tight-lipped about the specific details of the ordinance.  Ledford did say the fee would cost anywhere from $300 to $500. He also said if the insurance company didn't pay the fee, they won't require the drivers to do so.  Uninsured drivers would also be off the hook.
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