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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: January 5, 2017 09:35 AM
From: Representative Kate Harper
To: All House members
Subject: Fire Protection Service Charges
 
As several studies have shown, volunteer fire companies are struggling to stay in business with the demands on their time and energies, not to mention their need to find volunteers willing to risk their lives to run into burning buildings. Between the required training, and the continual need to raise money to continue their valuable service to their communities, volunteer Fire companies and other non-profit first responder organizations are in need of whatever the General Assembly can do to assist in facilitating the continued operations of these services across the Commonwealth. As a result of these many debates, several measures have been enacted which have eased the financial, regulatory and administrative requirements of these volunteers and their companies. More can be done to assist these volunteers as they struggle to protect our communities.

An issue in my district has caused me to have legislation drafted to reduce the monthly charges that volunteer fire companies, nonprofit rescue squads and nonprofit ambulance services have to pay, as it relates to the operation of an automatic fire protection sprinkler system. This legislation is substantially similar to HB 1040 (2015-2016) however, the terminology used has been updated to reflect how these charges are classified in the tariffs of water public utilities. Currently, owners of non-residential buildings that contain an automatic sprinkler system are charged fees for fire protection service, in addition to their regular monthly water bill charges. These charges include fees for the meter, pipes and other infrastructure related to operation of automatic sprinkler systems and other fire protection measures.

In the case of the Harmonville Fire company, which installed a sprinkler system to set a good example for commercial property owners in their township, the charges for having the system (even if never used) amounts to $2400 per year or the profit on the sale of 5,000 hoagies. With this in mind, I will be introducing legislation amending Title 66 to prohibit the imposition of charges for fire protection service upon volunteer fire companies, nonprofit rescue squads and nonprofit ambulance services. The public utility will be permitted to recover these costs from its residential and commercial rate payers at pennies per year in the same service area where the volunteer organization is located.