Some last-minute questions about legal liabilities and definitions prompted the Centerville City Council this week to table again a proposed ordinance requiring people to pay for extinguishing fires set deliberately or out of negligence.
The ordinance is proposed by the South Davis Fire District, which provides coverage for Centerville, and it has been adopted by all the other cities served by the district.Similar to an ordinance passed earlier this year in Salt Lake County, it would require a person to pay for the costs involved in putting out a fire he caused if it is determined he was grossly negligent or the fire was caused deliberately.
The ordinance sets up a hearing process in which a person charged with setting a fire will be notified of the city's finding and the cost they will be assessed. It also provides an appeal and hearing process.
Councilman Kent Lindsey said the various definitions and liabilities contained in the ordinance have been reviewed numerous times by the council and the city's attorney, but he still has serious reservations.
Determining the cost of extinguishing the fire, how the judgment will be assessed, what use will be made of the money, and possible countersuits against the city were cited by Lindsey as his major concerns.
Lindsey said he's not opposed to the concept of making people who are responsible for fires pay the cost, but he wants the ordinance worded properly so it will withstand what he sees as an inevitable court challenge.
"We don't want to just pass this thing and then set it on the shelf. If it's going to be on the books, we want to use it. And we want it to be effective because for sure some lawyer is going to challenge it," Lindsey said.
The council decided to refer it back to city staff members for more study and to submit it to the city's insurance carrier for review since part of the cost of defending the city in a lawsuit would be covered by insurance.