Emergency responders attend to two people pulled from the Grand River. (April 22, 2013)
LANSING, Mich. (WZZM) -- Two West Michigan lawmakers have introduced legislation in Lansing to help local governments recover the costs of rescuing people who take unnecessary risks during emergencies.
Brandon Dillon (D - Grand Rapids) and Rob VerHeulen (R - Walker) introduced the bills Wednesday. The bills are in response to rescues that took place during recent flooding on the Grand River. Canoeists were pulled from the river on April 23 and a kayaker was rescued on April 22. At least six rescues took place in Kent County during the flooding.
In April, WZZM 13 On Your Side asked Representative Dillon whether communities should have to pay for an individuals bad judgment. Dillon says it was the questions from WZZM 13's Brent Ashcroft that caused him to research the legislation.
"When disaster strikes, our rescue crews and first responders heroically work to save people from harm," Dillon said in a press statement. "When people take unnecessary risks, they put themselves in jeopardy and strain our emergency services. People who simply need to be rescued from a flooding home need help. But people who think it'd be fun to act recklessly during an emergency need to take responsibility."
Dillon's bill, House Bill 4856, would allow local governments to recover costs for emergency and rescue services during a declared state of emergency when the recused party has engaged in gross negligence or reckless behavior, even if the local government does not have an ordinance allowing for the recovery of costs. VerHeulen's HB 4857 outlines what costs local governments can charge for.
"Our local governments work diligently to balance their budgets so they can provide necessary services to the community," VerHeulen said in the statement. "They should not be forced to scramble to find extra funds to cover careless actions by thrill seekers. I hope we can deter this type of behavior in the future, but if it does occur at least local governments know they will be able to recoup their losses."