Fire protection update provided

Fire protection update provided

Posted: Monday, January 3, 2011 8:57 pm
By: Chris Menees, Staff Reporter

By CHRIS MENEES
Staff Reporter
Progress is continuing on implementing an interlocal agreement for county-wide fire protection.
The Obion County Budget Committee heard a brief status report on the agreement during its session this morning at the Obion County Courthouse conference room.
The Obion County Com-mission voted 15-3 at its Oct. 18, 2010, meeting to approve an interlocal agreement for county-wide fire protection.
The agreement would be among the communities of Hornbeak, Kenton, Obion, Rives, Samburg, Troy and Union City, as well as the Obion County Emergency Communications District (E-911) as the fire dispatch agency for all municipalities in the agreement and Obion County.
The municipalities named would agree to provide rural fire service outside of their established town and city limits and would agree to expand their rural fire service areas as indicated on a map which defines the areas in which the present municipal fire departments provide rural fire protection. Each municipality would agree to implement a standard subscription rate, with individual properties classified by a parcel number as listed on the county tax assessor’s map/tax card and a separate subscription fee to be charged for each parcel/address for which the customer desires to have rural fire protection coverage.
According to the agree-ment, South Fulton in-tends to provide rural fire service outside its city limits as directed by its city commission in a designated fire service area and would not be a party to the interlocal agreement.
The agreement had been in the works for about two years, but the issue of county-wide fire protection received significant at-tention in October in the aftermath of a Sept. 29, 2010, rural South Fulton fire where firefighters from a municipal fire department could not respond because the property owner had not paid an annual rural fire subscription fee.
During this morning’s Budget Committee meeting, Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire said one additional change was made to the agreement since its passage in October. He said the rural fire subscription fee will be collected by the county clerk’s office rather than the trustee’s office since, under state law, the trustee can only collect taxes and not fees.
McGuire said all of the municipalities involved in the agreement have signed off on it with the exception of Samburg, which will do so at a January board meeting.
Commissioners had also voted 17-1 at their October session to put the issue on the ballot at the next county election to let constituents decide if they want a fire tax or fee. This morning, commissioner Dwayne Hensley asked about the status of having the referendum and McGuire said, at this time, he does not believe the county can have a referendum on a tax. Budget Committee chairman Danny Jowers said the county cannot have a referendum which involves property tax on the ballot and Hensley added that a referendum vote could also be expensive.
Hensley then asked about having a committee in place in order to explore other options for the future and McGuire said such action may be premature until the county implements the program this year and first sees the percentage of participation. He also suggested the existing Fire Committee could serve in the capacity suggested by Hensley.
“I’m going to stay on top of it,” McGuire said.
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by e-mail at cmenees@ucmessenger.com.

Published in The Messenger 1.3.11

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