St. Andrews Public Service Commissioners decided Monday to wait another month before considering a new fee that would allow them recoup some of their expenses for responding to motor vehicle incidents.
Since August, the commission has been considering the ordinance that some call a "crash tax," said St. Andrews District Manager Christie Holderness. It was deferred in January for legal advice and the commission did not meet in February. On Monday, the commission tabled the matter until April.
"We've been discussing it for months and nobody cared," she said. But in the last few days, questions have arisen among the public, even though no one came to speak at Monday's meeting.
"We'd like to have people show up and give us their opinion," said commission chairman Charlie Ledford. "(Monday) nobody showed up."
The five-member board decided to seek input at a public hearing immediately before their next meeting, which is scheduled for April 7.
The ordinance would allow St. Andrews to charge for responding to motor vehicle accidents. The cost, which is estimated to range from a few hundred dollars to more than a thousand, would be borne by insurance companies.
The move is necessary because the district's call volume has increased from less than 1,000 calls in 2009 to almost 5,300 in 2013 due to a mutual aid agreement with Charleston, North Charleston, James Island and the St. John's Fire District. In 2012 the departments entered into a formal agreement that would call for them to be simultaneously dispatched to help with fires and other emergencies.
"Our call volume is way up because of the mutual aid agreement and we are just trying to recoup some of those costs," said Ledford.
St. Andrews is the partner in the mutual agreement that is funded solely by property taxes. Other fire departments in the partnership said they have no plans to follow St. Andrews' lead and charge reciprocal fees of their own.
"I was not for it in the beginning, but after many discussions we know that was the right thing to do," said Holderness. "We never expected the call volume to increase exponentially the way it did and we had to figure out a way, rather than to burden our taxpayers, to handle that. This is just a way to save our taxpayers from us having to raise their taxes."
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.
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