Plain Talk – 10.05.10

Plain Talk – 10.05.10

Posted: Friday, October 8, 2010 10:14 am
By: Nicolle Crist, Guest Columnist

You get what you pay for.
That appears to be the response of the South Fulton government to last week’s house fire that left the Cranick family home un-salvageable. The family doesn’t live in city limits so they do not pay city taxes which means they, and every other rural homeowner in Obion County, must pay a $75 per year fee for fire protection service.
The family is just now realizing that if the fee is not paid – there’s no service – period. Many people just assume common decency is covered by our city, county and state taxes, but it’s not.
Back in April, ABC news reported that homeowners across America are starting to get hit with fees for services they just assumed taxes covered. One family in New Castle, Ind. received a bill for $28,000 for the services of the fire department after their home burned down. There was no yearly fee that they missed. The fire department is now fee for service – taxes just don’t cover the costs of running the department.
Fearful of raising taxes to actually pay for their fire department, the town of New Castle, Ind. turned to a billing and collections company instead.
Watching the life’s possessions of a family go up in smoke and refusing to help is inexcusable. I’m not sure how those firefighters did it and I’m not entirely comfortable that those are the type of people we have serving the public, but why couldn’t we see something like this coming?
It costs money to maintain an adequate fire department and many towns and even entire states don’t have enough money to provide basic services.
If the City of South Fulton had chosen to save the home and then hired a billing and collection agency to go after payment, would that have been a better alternative?
Towns have firefighters, EMT’s and other first responders to pay for, and even towns with all volunteer fire departments need to pay for equipment and maintenance. These things do cost money. If the taxpayers aren’t going to pay for it, someone has to.
Now there are corporations that are more than willing to help collect the bill for a cut of the fire department’s fee and these companies have argued in court that they – not the actual fire departments – have the right to decide what that fee will be.
I know that it is idealistic of me to lament the idea that corporate, special interests profit from us not being a community. They profit from us deciding that we’re all on our own. They’re banking on us to think “… if your house burns you pay for it, don’t expect me and my taxes to help pay for it.”
I’m going to hold onto my idealism a little longer on this one. I refuse to believe that is how we want to live in America.
Part of the billing company’s sales pitch is that the town won’t need to raise taxes. Sure, that sounds great. More income and no taxes, but what does that actually mean if insurance companies are now financially responsible for our fire departments? Taxes are paid by the people and the people get to decide every few years whether they agree with how the taxes are being spent.
When was the last time you heard of a group of voters kicking a CEO out of office?
Taxes should be used to provide these services to everyone in the community, that’s what being part of a community means. What happened in South Fulton will in no way strengthen that town.
The South Fulton Fire Department sat and watched a neighbor’s home burn to the ground over $75.
If insurance, billing and collection corporations are running the show, does a a credit check before the firetrucks will come save your house really sound that far-fetched?
Send your comments by email to nicolle.crist@gmail.com.

WCP 10.05.10

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