The Robstown City Council killed an ordinance Monday night that would have allowed the Fire Department to charge city residents and businesses for firefighting services and damaged equipment.
The City Council voted unanimously to kill the ordinance, although the ordinance was up for second and final reading Monday night.
The City Council unanimously approved the ordinance on first reading last month, although city officials soon promised to amend the ordinance to drop residences from those that would be charged for firefighting services.
Fire Chief Richard Gonzalez said a set of fire gear costs more than $1,000 and firefighters sometimes experience equipment losses. The main purpose of the ordinance was to attempt to recover equipment losses and supplies utilized during emergency responses from property owners' insurance providers.
The ordinance established specific fees to be charged, from foam and water by the gallon to damaged ladders and brooms.
The dead ordinance said the fees for the use of personnel, equipment, and suppplies "shall be assessed and collected" when used in response to residential and commercial property fires, rescues or rescue attempts, vehicle fires, accidents and extrications from vehicles, traffic acccidents involving hazardous materials and other fluid controls, and scene and safety control at incidents."
The City Council adopted an amendment to the ordinance at last month's meeting to include billing residential properties, instead of excluding them as the ordinance initially read.
Gonzalez told the council that only insured property owners would be billed, but the ordiannance made no exception for uninsured propety owners.
But some residents spoke against the potential charges, and city leaders soon promised to exclude residences.
Mayor Rodrigo Ramon Jr., who was not at last month's City Council meeting, said it was never his intent to charge city residents for firefighting services.
"I am totally against it," Ramon said Tuesday. "That was never the intent of the city to do that."
Ramon said it will be better to scrap the old ordinance and start from scratch, with two new ordinances next month.
One ordinance will re-establish fees with Nueces County for firefighting calls outside city limits, the mayor said.
"Outside the city, we're going to set up a fee structure for equipment. We're going to try and increase the fee structure," Ramon said, noting rising fuel costs. "We feel it needs to go up. Fees outside the city are too low."
The out-of-city fee structure must be approved by the Nueces County Commissioners who are resposnible for contracting for fire protection services in rural areas of the county.
The other ordinance will establish fees for firefighting responses within the city.
"What it's going to look like, I'm not sure, but it definitely is going to exclude residences," Ramon said. "It will not include residences at all, just commericals. How exactly they're going to read and look, we're not sure yet."
The mayor said the city response ordinance would allow the city to establish and recover fees for commerical properties with insurance.
"It's only if you have insurance, that was the intent," Ramon said. "We need a fee structure. There will be an ordinance for inside the city, and one for outside the city."