LITCHFIELD — When members of the municipal fire and rescue department respond to car crashes and vehicle fires, the town of Litchfield will now be partially reimbursed for the cost.
Residents on Monday authorized the town’s billing agency, Central Maine Cost Recovery, to charge insurance companies as a way to help recover some of the expenses involved in dispatching crews and vehicles.
Roughly 30 voters, including town officials, attended a special town meeting at the Litchfield Fire & Rescue Central Station to weigh in on the issue. They also approved two other items related to the department, including a budget for repairs to the station’s parking lot.
The first question, which passed with only two residents opposed, asked if voters would approve a $126,500 project for repair and maintenance of the station’s parking lot. Paving is expected to cost $90,000 and estimates for materials from public works came in at $25,000. Officials in late July voted to add 10% to the total cost, bringing the overall estimate of $115,000 up to $126,500, to account for any inflationary increases that may occur.
Money for the project will be taken from the unassigned general funds account, and as a result it will not increase any part of the municipal budget. Any money remaining after the project is finished will be returned to the same account.
Town Manager Kelly Weissenfels said on Tuesday that the station’s driveway has not had any maintenance since the building itself was completed in 2002.
“Paving the entrance to Libby Road will provide year-round access, save time for responses using Libby Road, simplify snow plowing and ensure all equipment can continue to respond to calls in the extreme event that power lines are down on Hallowell Road in front of the station — which has happened,” said Weissenfels.
The question about seeking compensation from insurance companies when the fire and rescue department responds to car crashes passed with only one resident opposed.
During the select board’s last regular meeting, Central Maine Cost Recovery owner David Hewins explained that the money from insurance companies for these calls has always been available, but the insurance companies do not make it easy to collect.
The billing agency represents nearly 80 municipalities in Maine, and Hewins said his staff has been trained on how to deal with insurance companies. Litchfield will receive most of the compensation, with Central Maine Cost Recovery keeping $25 plus 20% of the amount paid by the insurance company for each incident.
During the town meeting, residents asked what would happen if an individual did not have insurance, and it was explained that they would not be billed, as Central Maine Cost Recovery would only deal with the insurance companies.
Residents also unanimously passed an item that would allow for expedient agreements between other community emergency response personnel when necessary for public safety. Under this item, the select board could still review these agreements after-the-fact if they deemed it necessary. The fire and rescue chief and town manager would also inform town officials about the agreements before they are signed.