Shen Council sets fire insurance fee | News

(Shenandoah) – The Shenandoah Fire Department now has a way to recoup some of the cost of major fires.

The Shenandoah City Council unanimously passed the first reading Tuesday night of an amendment to Chapter 35 of the city ordinance on fire safety. Council members then unanimously waived the second and third readings and formally adopted the amendment allowing fire services to take out insurance to cover part of the cost of fighting fires. Local insurance agent Brian Steinkuhler spoke in favor of the change at a public hearing, raising the issue of whether the department can accept donations instead of charging insurance.

“I called a couple of companies,” Steinkuhler said, “and they said, ‘Well, the way it says in the policy, it should actually be chargeable.’ So, this donation idea where they’re just going to give a donation, some have in the past I think, but I think the way it reads, to actually get that confirmation, it has to be an indictment of the city or the Fire department.”

Fire Chief Justin Marshall reiterated that the department does not charge a fee for fire calls.

“The whole point of the regulation, I think, was to offset the cost of a very large fire,” Marshall said. “Like I said, if we burn our entire fuel budget on a big commercial fire, we’re back here and changing the budget. A fire department, we have to be here no matter what. I’m just trying to somehow recoup the cost of wear and tear and the astronomical amount of fuel used right now on service calls and anything that could get damaged.”

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As an example, Marshall has broken down some of the costs of fighting the huge Maple Street commercial fire in November.

“We’re charging $647 for the engine that was there,” Marshall said. “Then $2,200 for the antenna (truck) because it probably pumped and burned 250 gallons of fuel. Obviously, the biggest device gets the biggest fee.”

Elsewhere, the council held a public hearing on the city’s proposed fiscal year 2024 budget and then scheduled another public hearing for its next regular meeting on March 28. City Administrator AJ, Lyman, says the council must hold a second hearing over recalculated budget numbers from the property tax rollback adjustment approved by the Iowa Legislature last month. Council members also approved charitable status for the Star Spangled Shenandoah celebration. This year’s event is spread over two days, with a merchant fair in Priest Park and the parade taking place on July 1st and a second merchant fair and fireworks on July 3rd.

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