Firemen want to bill insurance firms for services
by Larry S. Chowning
The Upper Middlesex Volunteer Fire Department (UMVFD) of Water View wants to establish a contract system between the fire department and a private company to bill insurance companies for responses to vehicle accidents.
Other fire departments and rescue squads throughout the county have endorsed the program, but have stated they will not participate in the plan for the time being.
The Water View firemen presented the plan to the Middlesex County Board of Supervisors last week for its endorsement, but the board tabled action on supporting the plan.
Supervisor Robert Crump voiced support for the plan. “The other [fire and rescue] companies in the county have other means of making money,” he said. “But the upper part of the county [served by Water View firemen] does not have the same means of generating funds like the middle and lower parts of the county, yet it has many of the same expenses.”
Crump noted the Upper Mid-dlesex Volunteer Fire Department provides service for a large part of Route 17, the most traveled road in Middlesex that runs from Saluda to Laneview.
Crump noted that the Water View firemen can implement the plan without the supervisors’ approval.
UMVFD fire chief George Longest had told supervisors at an earlier meeting the amount billed would be based on the service provided, and would range between $500 and $2,000.
The Middlesex County Emergency Services Committee met on October 28 to discuss the issue. At that meeting the other fire and rescue departments indicated they did not plan to bill for services at this time, and did not want to prevent the UMVFD from doing so.
Board chairman Kenneth W. Williams said if all fire and rescue squads start billing insurance companies, he wondered how this would affect overall insurance rates.
County administrator Charles Culley said insurance rates are going to go up, but they probably have already gone up to cover this expense because other localities are already doing it.
Williams said he wanted to know whether area insurance companies have increased the cost of insurance to Middlesex citizens because of this billing policy.
“If our citizens are already paying for it with increased rates, then we ought to endorse it, but if we are going to cause increased rates, we need to consider it further,” said Williams.
The board tabled action so county officials could find out if insurance rates across the county have already gone up due to the billing service.
In another matter, supervisors agreed to allow the Middlesex County Museum to restore the interior of the old clerk’s office building to the way it was in the 1850s.