Fee could harm, not help rescues

Daily Editorial Board

The Minneapolis City Council approved an ordinance Friday that allows the city to charge a fee for especially technical or demanding rescue services, partly to deter urban explorers from conducting expeditions into abandoned and often dangerous grain elevators. 
 
The ordinance, proposed by Ward 4 City Councilwoman and Council President Barb Johnson, gives the city power to charge a $721 fee for the first two hours of a technical rescue and $300 per hour after that.
 
These rescues — like an hours-long June effort to save a University of Minnesota student who fell in the Bunge grain elevator in Southeast Como — cost the city a significant amount of money, Johnson told the Star Tribune. In the June event, the student died at a hospital. Another University student fell to her death in the Bunge elevator in 2006. 
 
We understand council members’ concern over residents exploring these dangerous buildings, and we commend them for creating a disincentive to explore grain elevators.
 
However, we fear this measure could generate unintended harm.
 
Charging those in need of rescue seems similar to ticketing underage students who call for emergency services while drinking alcohol. The state Legislature passed a medical amnesty law two years ago to encourage young people to request an emergency response, even when underage consumption is involved. Why, then, would it
discourage that same call for technical rescues — especially when the need is so dire? 
 
We urge the City Council to consider a way to discourage dangerous exploration without making rescue services more difficult to access.