Corry Fire Department has gotten more of a return from billed services since a fire-billing ordinance went into effect.
Corry City Council approved a fire-billing ordinance in 2017 to help defer costs associated with the fire department and an agreement was signed with Pennsylvania Fire Recovery Service LLC, of Macungie.
PAFRS is a billing agency, owned and operated by firefighters for fire departments.
After a slow start to fee recovery in 2017, $4,223.07 in total was collected for that year after PAFRS was hired. While the billing ordinance went into effect in July 2017, the first payment was received from billed services in September 2017.
Previous to that, it was rare for Corry Fire Department to be able to collect on billed services.
A total of $11,013.73 was collected in 2018 and $10,725 has been collected in 2019, up to the end of September.
"I feel it's going as expected now," said Corry Fire Chief Jim Lathrop. "We like that the bill is handled by a third party for the city and removes any personal involvement on our end. We gather the information, enter it into our state reporting system and they handle it from there."
The company has been operating for 16 years, founded by owner and President Shawn Meder. During his 26 years in the fire service, it was his work as a treasurer that awakened him to the difficulty fire departments face when trying to collect from insurance companies.
PAFRS works with about 900 fire departments throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and West Virginia.
NFPA and OSHA standards keep changing, requiring the replacement of gear and equipment more often. While most departments are volunteer departments, if money isn't collected and municipalities don't provide enough to keep equipment up to date, then it puts firefighters at risk.
"If we had to go to career fire departments everywhere in the state, it would cost the taxpayers in excess of 10 billion dollars a year," Meder said. "We are pleased to delay this process a little longer by recovering funds from the insurance companies that are profiting up to 2 billion every year."
Lathrop said that the PAFRS has been easy to work with, given their background as firefighters, they have the experience necessary.
"We are currently seeing about 35% return on this," said Lathrop. "The big issue seems to be insurance companies don't believe it applies to them and send the bill back to customers saying they must pay it."
Such a situation arose recently when Tallon Sawyer, of Corry, brought a bill from PAFRS to Monday's Corry City Council meeting to see if a reduction of billing cost is possible for a fire at 136 Mott St., a residence he is currently rehabilitating.
Sawyer was billed for $2,600, which he said was a big bill for a fire that was under control within 15 minutes.
While Council members agreed to review the bill, it was explained that city ordinance sets the billing standards and amounts, found in Chapter 35, section 2 of Corry, Pa., Code of Ordinances, available online.
Sawyer has Millville Mutual Insurance through Rossbacher Insurance Agency in Corry.
Lathrop said that he often sees three different insurance companies, one of them being Erie Insurance, reject bills from fires, leaving payment to fall back on policy holders.
A decision for any reduction will be made after the bill is reviewed by the Public Safety Director Councilman Drew Sproveri, and Lathrop.