You've heard of bed taxes that cities levy on visitors who stay in hotels. Well, Huntington Beach is going one further -- an accident tax.
Huntington Beach City Council is set to make a final vote Monday on a new law that would levy emergency response fees on nonresidents when they're found to be at fault in a car accident. If the drivers are insured, insurance companies will get the bill. Uninsured drivers will get a bill directly from the city.
The fees could net $115,000 for the general fund, according to city staff. At least four other cities in Orange County -- including Fullerton, Costa Mesa, Garden Grove, and Santa Ana -- have recently enacted similar fees.
The initial Council vote was 6-1 in favor of enacting the fees. Councilman Devin Dwyer voted no, saying it didn't make sense to single out non-residents of the city and that people assume fire services are paid for by their property taxes.
"You just happen to be from another city, and then all of a sudden you get a bill for several thousands of dollars because you happen to have an accident in our city -- I think is ridiculous," Dwyer said.
"They're [insurance companies] going to recover the costs and that means we're all going to pay more in auto insurance. It's not just people out of town -- you will be paying for it as well."
Mayor Cathy Green voted for the proposal after recounting a story about a recent car accident involving her son. The other party was at fault, though Green said she wasn't sure if the person was a resident or not.
"I wouldn't mind her being . . . her paying a fee at all," Green said.
Also included in the new fees are emergency responses to incidents where pipelines or power lines are damaged.
Here is the proposed fee schedule:
Motor vehicle accidents with fluids: $595.00 Billed when the fire department has to clean up spilled automotive fluids.
Car fire: $750.00 Billed when a car fire needs to be extinguished.
Extrication: $1,995.00 Billed when the fire department has to remove anyone from a vehicle using any equipment.
Landing zone setup: $405.00 per engines per landing zone. Billed when a helicopter is needed to transport the accident victim(s).
Engine: $405.00 per hour
Truck: $505.00 per hour
Miscellaneous Equipment: $405.00 per hour
-- ADAM ELMAHREK