East Contra Costa County Residents to Pay First Responders Fee

East Contra Costa County residents are now expected to pay a new fee if first responders attend to a list of emergencies although those services are already paid for in their taxes.

The county’s Fire Protection District Board approved the new recovery fee last week and said the fee applies to residents who don’t live in the area but are rescued by first responders in the East Contra Costa district.

"We already pay taxes and we’re not getting the same coverage to pay additional it’s totally wrong," said resident Lori Ogata from Brentwood.

Residents think the fee doesn’t make sense, but according to East Contra Costa County Fire Chief Brian Helmick, it’s the right thing to do to serve a growing area which includes Brentwood, Antioch and Discovery Bay.

"The district has been struggling to find alternative ways to get revenue into the district," he said. "We need more stations."

In a few months from now, the district will raise money by charging over $400 if first responders have to help with car crashes. People will have to pay even more money for helicopter landings, illegal fires, hazardous material releases and water emergencies.

"This program will bring in about $50,000 to the district annually," said Helmick.

District Finance Chairman Joe Young is the only member who voted against cost recovery fees, claiming it won’t solve the lack of revenue problem.

"These little nickel and dime revenues aren’t going to solve the problem," Young said. "We’re talking about $50,000 in revenue, on this fee we might get to $100,000."

Young said adding another fire station will cost $10 million to build and another $4 million to operate.

"Why now, it’s more necessary now, we need it without the additional cost otherwise you’re going to get more people dying," Ogata said.

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