PARIS — Selectmen held a workshop Monday regarding billing for services provided by the Fire Department, despite Fire Chief Brad Frost’s opposition to the practice.

Newly elected Selectman Scott Buffington spent the past year as a resident and business owner talking about budget cuts, but “thinks it’s important to look at ways to generate revenue.”

“Our Fire Department is not just fighting fires anymore,” he said. “There are a lot of other services that are being provided on our tax dollars and we should come up with a way to offset that.”

Buffington favors creating an ordinance for billing for fire services, which he said shouldn’t be used for profit, but to offset costs. It could be beneficial to the town, he said.

“At the very least, it will have us scrutinize the very services we provide (to) see if we are duplicating any services of other agencies,” he said. “We might find out we don’t need the Fire Department and PACE responding to these calls together.” 

Frost, who said Tuesday he wasn’t invited to the workshop, shared his stance on billing for services.

“I don’t agree with it and none of my people under me agree with it,” he said. “I want nothing to do with it now. The people already pay for coverage here and I serve the people as well as the town manager.”

There are other bigger issues out there, he said.

“They ought to be concentrating on lack of service during the nighttime,” he said. “That’s when somebody is going to get hurt.”

Buffington said the way to get more people involved in the Fire Department is to pay better wages, which could be paid from money recouped for services provided.

“If we could offset the costing of fighting these fires, I think we could pay these guys a better wage,” he said.

Frost referenced an email interim Town Manager Bill Guindon sent to selectmen summarizing his conversation with the legislative liaison for the insurance industry in Maine.

In the July 26 email, Guindon wrote any fire response fees billed by the town would be the responsibility of the homeowner.

“Insurance companies view fire protection as a municipal service and billing for services as a double tax” and fire response billing could affect homeowner insurance rates, he said in the email. 

“Lobbyists control Augusta and insurance companies are big lobbyists, of course,” Buffington said Monday. “They’re not going to jump on the bandwagon. I don’t think it would be fair to call it a double taxation. Our tax dollars were intended to fight fires. Now it’s become this thing — whenever you need anything extra, you call the Fire Department.”

He said Frost developed a billing policy under former Town Manager Sharon Jackson.

“He had some rates in there that would have to be adjusted,” Buffington said.

Other information and meetings selectmen want to cover before moving forward include:

• Determining the cost of Fire Department services;

• Estimating potential revenue from these services;

• Handling invoicing;

• Reaching out to Turner officials to get more information on their billing practice;

• Meeting with local insurance agents; and

• Meeting with PACE, Norway and Oxford officials.

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Paris Fire Department 2015-16 incident responses

(does not include EMS calls and assistance to other communities)

Structure fires, including chimney fires: 10

Vehicle fires: 4

Grass/woods fires: 5

Fire alarm/sprinkler: 6

Fire alarm activation: 26

CO detector alarm: 6

Utility/electrical problem: 18

Incidents canceled while en route: 8

Station standby: 2

Hazmat spill/leak/meth lab: 7

Miscellaneous: 45

Public assistance: 38

Unpermitted burn: 18

Permitted burn: 1

Severe weather: 1

Total incident responses: 195

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