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Jerome backs off attempt to bill building owner for $96K firefighting cost

The city of Jerome has backed off from its attempt to bill a downtown apartment building owner $96,000 for firefighting costs after a fire destroyed her building and damaged two others, the AP reports. “The invoice sent to Sylvia Moore was sent in error. No recovery costs will be sought against Ms. Moore for the fire occurring upon her property,” city officials said in a statement issued Thursday. After receiving the three-page, itemized bill, Moore told KTVB-TV, “You think you've got a fire department that's paid with your tax money. I don't know what to think. Really I don't.” Click below for the full AP report.


Jerome bills building owner for firefighting costs
  

JEROME, Idaho (AP) — Earlier this week, the owner of an apartment building in downtown Jerome that was destroyed by fire got a $96,000 bill from the city to cover the costs of battling the blaze.

Now, officials in the south-central Idaho city are backing down, saying the invoice sent to Sylvia Moore to cover costs of wages, equipment and food was done so by mistake.

“The invoice sent to Sylvia Moore was sent in error. No recovery costs will be sought against Ms. Moore for the fire occurring upon her property,” city officials said in a statement issued Thursday.

City Spokeswoman Zoe Monahan said officials would offer no other comment on the matter.

Moore is the owner of a building destroyed April 30 by a fire caused when a glue gun was left on a plastic chair in one of the apartments.

After receiving the invoice, Moore told KTVB-TV in a story broadcast Wednesday (http://bit.ly/10OczLQ) she was shocked to learn the city was seeking to recoup costs.

“I have to say this shocks me as much as the fire,” Moore said. “Everything's gone. And now? And now a $100,000 bill for a fire I had nothing to do with. I don't think I need to be penalized for that. I didn't start a fire.”

A copy of the bill Moore gave the television station lists three pages of itemized costs that include pay for firefighters and police, cost of using equipment, and food costs during the several days responders spent at the fire. The bill is due June 21.

“If that's happening to me, is it going to happen to other people in Jerome?” Moore said. “You think you've got a fire department that's paid with your tax money. I don't know what to think. Really I don't.”

Jerome Fire Chief Jack Krill billed for 67 hours and said Moore or her insurance company should pay for the costs of fighting the blaze that also damaged two nearby buildings. He said the bill is justified because the fire is considered an extraordinary case.

“A standard house fire doesn't take that much effort,” Krill said. “But since this was basically, I would say 12 structures in one, under adverse conditions that could have taken out a lot of downtown area Jerome, and we had to throw a lot of resources at it to contain it to the building that it was in. It was definitely out of the ordinary.”

Krill said he spoke with Moore's insurance company in creating the itemized list in the bill.

“We billed at what the employee rates were for city employees as what the true cost of their hourly costs were plus the standard bills for these types of equipment, either the Idaho Department of Lands rate schedule, or FEMA rates schedule,” Krill said. “The city of Jerome taxpayers put forth a lot of the efforts to extinguish this fire, and we want to try and recover that taxpayer money the best we can.”


Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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