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Laurel Mountain Borough considers primary fire company

| Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, 12:17 a.m.

In the coming months, Laurel Mountain Borough Council will weigh their options as to which fire company they will choose as their primary responder.

This decision was the result of a discussion about the borough's responsibility regarding firefighter workers' compensation premiums.

It was discovered that the volunteer fire company for Ligonier Township did not collect premiums for firefighter workers' compensation from the borough in some time.

Borough solicitor Jeff Miller said insurance carriers for fire companies provide coverage for future injury, namely asbestos and other cancer risks. They calculate their premiums with a formula derived from the population of the municipalities the company protects. Each municipality then pays a percent of the cost, based on the proportion to the total population.

“In the past, there was an agreement that said we would pay $100 a year for that coverage, but over the years it was just something that got lost in the paperwork,” Miller said.

With the recent changes in legislation, Miller went on to say, worker's compensation premiums are expected to rise significantly, prompting a reassessment on the part of the township.

“Before it was $100. What's that? Now if it's $1,000 it's a bigger deal,” Miller said. “Because this company services our municipality, it is necessary for us to pay a portion of those premiums. Otherwise it is Ligonier Township residents footing the bill for workers compensation for fire coverage in our borough.”

The borough receives fire protection from both Ligonier Township and Ligonier Borough companies, which led to questions concerning paying two sets of premiums.

“It occurs to me that we can avoid paying premiums to both departments by designating one as a primary responder,” Miller said. “It really wouldn't make sense to designate both companies as first responder and have to pay premiums to both.”

Miller said council will continue to review the options.

“I don't know at this point whether Laurel Mt. Borough has ever designated either fire company as a primary responder. If they have not, we'll look at the law and see what we will determine,” Miller said. “For financial reasons we will have to designate one as a primary responder, and we'll talk to those fire companies and municipalities to see how they feel about it.”

Peter Turcik is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.