Saugatuck Township Fire Department Chief Janik Running Successful Cost Recovery Program
Since the beginning of the local fire department’s cost recovery program more than three years ago, the fire department has recouped tens of thousands of dollars for Tri-Community taxpayers.
“There are so many calls for incidents on the highway, if we didn’t implement a cost recovery program, our fire board would have to ask for an increase to the millage,” Saugatuck Township Fire District Chief Greg Janik told The Local Observer Newspaper Tuesday.
The fire department recaptures about 60 to 70 percent of those expenses that are designated to fall under the cost recovery program, including, for example, highway emergency response calls, excessive false fire alarms, and responding to downed power lines that take over an hour, said Janik.
The cost recovery program was one of the major tasks Janik was charged with when hired back in June 2013.
Before that, there was no such program.
Janik aggressively went at the issue, recruiting a team to do just that, sending invoices to insurance companies, writing follow-up letters and, if no response, even hiring attorneys when necessary.
A report from earlier this year indicated the department has seen a decrease in fire calls, but a 57 percent increase in overall total calls for help varying types from citizens and other local authorities.
That was one key factor prompting Tri-Community officials to look into increasing the overall police and emergency services, possibly via a restructuring of services under one Tri-Community-wide authority.
That includes those car accidents on the highway that Janik refers to where firefighters are often the first responders to an accident scene, providing a number of essential services such as extricating a pinned driver from a car, using their EMT (emergency medical technicians) training to care for the injured, and/or securing a site before ambulances and police arrive.
For example, this past summer there was an accident involving three buses and 30 kids that resulted in a minor injury, but which Janik says cost the fire department $4,000 to response to.
“Should the local taxpayers have to pay for that when they (those involved in the accident) are from Ohio?” asked Janik.
One factor that Janik says contributes to an increase in automobile accidents includes distracted driving, drivers not watching the road because they are busy texting or playing games on portable media devices. Also, there are several cases of drunk-driving, as the Saugatuck area is a popular tourist resort town.