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Brainerd City Council: Extrication fee waived following appeal

The Brainerd City Council Monday night finally granted a request to waive a fee related to a vehicle crash that occurred more than a year ago. Muriel West was involved in a crash on Aug. 17, 2015, at the intersection of Wise and Beaver Dam roads ...

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Muriel West was involved in a crash on Aug. 17, 2015, at the intersection of Wise and Beaver Dam roads in Brainerd. As a result of the crash, the Brainerd Fire Department extricated West from her vehicle and she was transported by North Memorial Ambulance to Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Medical Center. BrainerdDispatch.com Illustration

The Brainerd City Council Monday night finally granted a request to waive a fee related to a vehicle crash that occurred more than a year ago.

Muriel West was involved in a crash on Aug. 17, 2015, at the intersection of Wise and Beaver Dam roads in Brainerd. As a result of the crash, the Brainerd Fire Department extricated West from her vehicle and she was transported by North Memorial Ambulance to Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Medical Center.

Per city ordinance, West was billed $500 for the extrication service. At an April Brainerd City Council Personnel and Finance Committee meeting, West's mother approached the committee about appealing the fee.

The ordinance did not have an appeal structure included, so the committee decided to hold off on West's appeal until the ordinance was modified. The ordinance was later amended to include an appeal process.

On Oct. 5, West submitted her formal appeal to the Brainerd Fire Department, citing her status as a student at Minnesota State University Moorhead and not having the $500 to pay the fee, which was not covered by her insurance. At the Nov. 7 council meeting, the council approved a motion to reach out to West's insurance company requesting a letter documenting the refused coverage of the fee.

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A letter dated Nov. 9 from Darrell Pulak, West's insurance agent from Baxter Insurance Group, states the $500 extrication fee was denied by her policy with Travelers Insurance. Because the city received the letter, the council approved West's appeal on a 6-1 vote, with council member Kelly Bevans voting against the motion.

Bevans asked if granting the appeal meant in the future the council would remove the ordinance to charge for extrication, or if the city would be charging people who don't appeal the fee. The fire department does receive payment for the fee from some insurance companies, council member Mary Koep said, but not all of them. Because of that, the fire department is hesitant to remove the charge, she said.

The understanding is if an insurance company won't pay the fee, the city would like a letter saying the fee isn't covered, council member Dave Pritschet said. Bevans pointed out the letter on West's behalf was from her insurance agent, not her insurance company.

"We asked for a denial from her insurance and did not get it," Bevans said. "Had we had a response from their insurance company denying this, I would have supported it."

West noted in her appeal since the accident, she has changed her college major to social work in order to give back to others.

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