Councilman wants to reconsider ordinance

Editor’s note: This corrects Councilman Devin Dwyer’s vote.

A Huntington Beach City Councilman said Monday he will bring an ordinance that charges out-of-town drivers to pay for emergency services if they cause a car accident back to the dais.

Councilman Don Hansen announced at a study session he wants council to reconsider the emergency response fees portion of the ordinance after he received “significant commentary and heartburn.” Councilman Joe Carchio said he seconded reconsidering the ordinance.

The ordinance was originally approved with only Councilman Devin Dwyer dissenting.

The ordinance sticks nonresidents with the bill for emergency services for car accidents, fires or vehicle extractions and is estimated to generate $100,000 in revenue, according to the staff report. The ordinance also gives the city the power to be reimbursed for emergency costs by companies for any pipeline and power line incidents, but Hansen said he is not asking to reconsider that portion.

The fees don’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.

If the emergency fees portion of the ordinance is repealed, it would impact the budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year that has to be approved by Sept. 20.

Councilman Keith Bohr said he thought the fee was a “fairly creative” solution and cautioned council against being so reactionary and repealing it because of some emails.

“I think it’s a lot to do about nothing,” he said.

Mayor Pro-Tem Jill Hardy agreed that the council shouldn’t change their votes just because they received emails.

“It’s rough when you get emails…where people disagree, but sometimes you have to stand up and say this is what we have to do,” she said. “We’re just trying to recover our expenses from people that don’t pay taxes in Huntington Beach.”

Hansen said it wasn’t just “a couple of nasty emails,” but feedback from some of the largest businesses in the community.

“This isn’t just people telling me they aren’t going to Ruby’s anymore,” he said.

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.