A proposed new fee for people who have to be rescued after crawling around in abandoned buildings is now headed for a vote of the Minneapolis City Council.
On Wednesday, the council’s Public Safety Committee voted 5-0 to forward the proposal to the full council. If approved, it would set a series of fees to be paid by anyone who trespasses or otherwise breaks the law, falls, and requires the services of a technical rescue team made of up members of several metro-area fire agencies.
The fee for the first two hours of a rescue would be $721, plus $300 per additional hour. People charged with the fee could also be responsible for additional costs if rescuers’ equipment is damaged in the process.
Council President Barb Johnson said she introduced the idea after a series of complicated and costly rescues of people exploring abandoned grain elevators around Minneapolis.
One recent event resulted in the death of a University of Minnesota student who fell three stories while exploring the Bunge Tower grain elevator. That rescue involved an emergency room doctor being lowered into the elevator.
“It ends up being an extraordinary amount of dollars that are used to get people out of these very life-threatening situations,” she said.
Minnesota state law permits local jurisdictions to levy fines for emergency services. Johnson’s proposal would also formalize the city’s longtime practice of charging fees for vehicle crashes that require help from the Fire Department: $577 for a crash to which a fire engine must respond and $721 for a ladder truck.
Johnson said the technical rescue fees would only be used in situations where someone had broken the law.
Council Member Cam Gordon said he was supportive of the plan, but wants to ensure the city has some room for case-by-case judgments. He said he worries about families that could end up with an unexpectedly large financial burden.
“I’ve had two fatalities in my ward and as I’m reading this and thinking about this, I’m thinking: Who would it be that it goes back to? The parents of the child who was killed?” he said.