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N.H. Fire Department Proposes Increase to Ambulance Fees

DERRY, N.H. -- The Derry Fire Department is seeking an approximately 10 percent increase in its ambulance fees.

The increase would be the first since 2008 and would still put the Derry rates below those of similar-sized towns in the area.

"The 2011 average per run in Londonderry, Salem, Windham, Concord and Portsmouth is $967.80," said Town Administrator John Anderson. "This proposal would bring Derry's rate to $918, so it would still be significantly lower than those five comparable communities."

Fire Chief George Klauber said Derry has historically had lower rates than other municipalities in the region. He said the department usually adjusts rates every two years but held off from proposing an increase last year because of the economic climate.

Municipal ambulance services are also typically less expensive than private services, Anderson said.

"We did go out and ask a couple of our neighbors who use a private contractor for the rates they are using and they refused to provide those," he said. "Anecdotally, we know they are over the $1,200 per run amount."

Since the fire and emergency services departments are already supported by taxpayer dollars, Councilor Janet Fairbanks said charging an ambulance fee on top of that seems like double dipping.

"When firefighters respond to a fire, they don't send the homeowner a bill," she said. "I don't know how this started, but I can't in good conscience support it in this economy."

Emergency Services Director Chuck Hemeon said the great majority of municipal ambulance services in the Northeast charge a fee.

"You can look at it as the tax base ensures the ambulance and crew is available, and the user fee offsets the tax costs to the town of Derry," he said.

Councilor Joel Olbricht noted that the ambulance fees are a positive for the town's property tax rate.

"If the town didn't charge an ambulance fee, then all of our property taxes would be higher," he said.

The council will likely vote on the proposed increases later this month. If approved, the increases will take effect on the first day of the month following a 30-day period after adoption.
 



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