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It’s time for the county to pay for rural fire protection

It’s time for the county to pay for rural fire protection

Posted: Friday, May 18, 2012 8:00 pm
By: By Donna Ryder

Rural fire subscriptions paid by Obion County residents expire July 1.
With the county no longer collecting the fee, and thus breaking a contract between the county and seven of the county’s municipalities, that leaves those municipalities and their taxpayers once again expected to foot the bill for the county’s rural residents. Those cities include Samburg, Hornbeak, Troy, Obion, Rives, Kenton and Union City. South Fulton declined to participate and continued to run its own subscription fee program.
I dare say that some county residents decided to live outside of city limits to avoid paying city taxes, yet they expect to receive a city service the majority of homeowners have only recently been expected to pay for.
Union City city council members agreed this week that the city’s fire trucks will not roll outside the city limits come July 1, unless county commissioners have recommendations towards funding the municipal fire departments in the county. The commissioners meet on Monday and surely this will be a topic of hot discussion. Obion County residents who may be upset by the possibility of losing fire protection need to call their commissioners to express their concern. I’d like for them to go one step further and suggest that, during this critical budget-setting period for fiscal year 2012-13, their commissioners vote to give funds to all fire departments in the county. Most municipalities have been providing this service for free for far too long and city taxpayers should no longer be expected to pay the bill to fight rural fires.
City taxpayers, you are county residents, too, and you have elected commissioners who are supposed to vote for your interests, as well. So, don’t let the rural residents make this decision alone. Voice your concerns and do it quickly.
Many of you will say that the fire departments get paid $500 for a fire call. It’s only a small sum of the actual cost of fighting a fire. What about those homeowners who refuse to pay? Most towns end up writing off the fee because they can’t collect, once again leaving city taxpayers paying the bill for rural residents. And what about the grass fires — something that will surely happen on many occasions during this current dry spell? Who pays for those fires? It’s certainly not the county or the state. It’s the city’s taxpayers who have to pay.
Responding to fire calls aren’t the only expenses incurred by the departments. There are state fees and state requirements for training. Each firefighter has to have turnout gear and radios. Then there’s the electricity and other utilities. The building and trucks must be maintained and insured. I’ve not even mentioned the automobile accidents the fire departments responds to.
There are just too many expenses for the cities to continue doing this alone. They’ve got to have help and it must come from Obion County’s rural residents.
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Associate Editor Donna Ryder can be contacted by email at dryder@ucmessenger.com.

Published in The Messenger 5.18.12

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