Davie delays decision on accident fee

Oct 16, 2008

South Florida Sun-Sentinel--October 15, 2008

By Susannah Bryan

DAVIE – To avoid layoffs, the town is counting on $700,000 in fees from a controversial plan that would bill drivers who cause accidents.

But the Town Council delayed a decision on the plan Wednesday, tabling the item for the second time in two weeks.

"This bad idea is going to spread like cancer," Mayor Tom Truex said, calling the plan deeply flawed. In arguing for the plan’s outright rejection, Truex said other cities would pass similar measures, leading to higher insurance rates for all.

Councilwoman Susan Starkey, a champion of the plan, suggested tabling the matter and coming back with a more detailed ordinance on Nov. 5. "We will have to lay off firefighters if we don’t pass this," she said.

Town leaders passed the budget for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 with the expectation the accident fee would be approved.

If the town approves the plan, Davie would be the first municipality in Broward County to charge such a fee. The average fee would come to $840 if both police and fire-rescue crews respond to the crash.

The Council tentatively approved the proposal 3-2 in September, with Council members Michael Crowley, Marlon Luis and Starkey supporting it and Truex and Councilman Bryan Caletka dissenting.

The charge would apply to all accidents, with bills going to the insurance company of the at-fault driver. Davie residents wouldn’t be forced to pay if their insurance companies reject the fee. That same courtesywouldn’t apply to people who live outside town. Nonresidents who refuse to pay the fee would risk damaging their credit rating.

Town officials defend the practice of not charging residents, saying they already pay for fire and police services through property taxes.

Critics accuse the town of making a money grab and worry that insurance rates will rise as more cities pass similar fees.