Non-residents to be billed for emergency services

Out-of-town drivers will now have to pay for emergency services if they cause a car accident in Surf City's boundaries.

The City Council approved an ordinance Monday night that sticks nonresidents with the bill for emergency services for car accidents, fires or vehicle extractions, which is estimated to generate $100,000 in revenue, according to the staff report.

The ordinance doesn't apply to residents, but to the more than 16 million people who descend on Huntington Beach annually, according to the report. Residents are exempt because they pay property taxes.

There are more than 300 car accidents caused by nonresidents annually, and the Fire Department will now be able to recoup its emergency services costs if there is an at-fault driver, according to the report.

Car extractions will be billed at nearly $2,000; vehicle fires at $750; and accidents at almost $600 if there are hazardous fluids that need to be cleaned up at the scene.

Garden Grove has already implemented a similar program, and Santa Ana has one in the works.

The ordinance also gives the city the power to be reimbursed for emergency costs by companies for any pipeline and power line incidents.

Also at Monday's meeting:

Councilmen Keith Bohr and Don Hansen test-drove city-purchased iPads during the meeting.

The tablet computers are part of a pilot program that the City Clerk's Office has implemented to reduce the use of , said City Clerk Joan Flynn.

The Apple devices, which staff are calling "e-packets," are being used to view the council agendas instead of the regular binder filled with photocopied staff reports.

"It's just like the notebooks, but we're saving time and money," Flynn said.

The City Clerk's office purchased three iPads to test out whether they will work for the city's needs and will save money, Flynn said. The third device is being used in the Clerk's office to practice loading and unloading documents.

The iPads are the base version.

"We want the public to know it's a tool, not a toy," she said.

Each iPad cost about $560, including a case, screen protector and one application so council members can make notes and bookmark pages on their digital agendas.

The council's agenda packets can get up to several hundred pages, and at the June 21 meeting on the Ward and Garfield Specific Plan, the agenda peaked at 1,128 pages with 800 pages alone for the specific plan, said Robin Lugar, assistant city clerk.

That packet cost about $500 to reproduce, not including employee hours, Flynn said.

Flynn said they have been considering for months how to best move away from paper and considered laptops, but the dais has no electrical outlets, and the costs of installing some were expensive.

"Our goal is to let people know that we're only going to pursue it if it's cost effective…and it works well," she said.

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