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Tampa may raise fees for emergency calls, building inspections

TAMPA — The price tag for city rescue workers to restart your heart, start an intravenous line or take you to the hospital may soon go up.

Mayor Pam Iorio wants to increase life support and transport fees to $600 and charge $10 a mile for the drive to the hospital. Current fees are $330 to $500 for medical care, $550 for transport and $5 a mile for the ride.

The proposal, set for a vote by the City Council on Thursday, allows annual increases of at least 3 percent. The fees, charged to medical and automobile insurance companies, have remain unchanged since 2001.

The new fee structure would bring an additional $500,000 a year to the city.

The council on Thursday also will consider increasing fire rescue fees for such services as responding to false alarms, fire extinguisher training and fireworks sales permits.

Building-inspection fees will increase to a minimum of $75 and a maximum of $260, plus a cost per square foot for buildings over 80,000 square feet. The current rate, in place since 1998, ranges from $35 to $350, with no extra charges for large buildings.

That plan would bring an extra $400,000 to the city.

Extra cash from all the new fees would go to the city's general fund, not the fire department.

Capt. Bill Wade, a spokesman for Tampa Fire Rescue, said the new fire rescue fees bring the city more in line with what other cities and counties charge.

"We should charge reasonable fees for services," Wade said.

A survey provided by Wade of emergency fees around the state show they average $501 for basic life support to $626 for advanced life support, and $9.18 a mile for transport.

Wade said the city doesn't try to recover emergency care costs from individuals who don't have insurance, pointing out that in 2008, the city billed $5 million for services but collected only $3.3 million.

City Council member Charlie Mirada said he would support the new emergency service fees as long as he's assured that people who don't have insurance won't suffer financial hardship from them.

Council member John Dingfelder said he also supports the proposed medical care rates.

"It appears that that's basically going after insurance money," he said, noting that the companies are accustomed to paying at the levels Iorio has suggested. "I don't think it will have any impact on the local public."

He did, however, question whether the city should go forward with the other increases.

"I'd like to see them slow down a little bit and have some dialogue with the corporate community," he said.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

Tampa may raise fees for emergency calls, building inspections 07/13/09 [Last modified: Monday, July 13, 2009 11:38pm]
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