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Reavis: Back to Square 1 on rural fire protection

Reavis: Back to Square 1 on rural fire protection
By CHRIS MENEES
Staff Reporter
Hornbeak’s board of al-dermen has a lot to con-sider in the days ahead.
A proposed rural fire membership program and the first draft of a 2012-13 budget top the list of items aldermen will be studying before taking action.
At its session Tuesday night, the board heard from Hornbeak Fire Chief Bob Reavis, who is proposing a rural fire membership plan which will solve Hornbeak’s issue of how to provide rural fire protection. He presented the plan Monday to the Obion County Budget Committee.
A countywide rural fire subscription program in existence the past year was halted last month after the county clerk expressed concerns about her office collecting a fee not authorized by state statute, as well as concerns about a database and liability, and stopped collecting the rural fire subscription fees.
Last week, the Obion County Commission voted down a fire tax recommended by the county’s fire committee and Reavis said the action essentially put the rural fire program “back to Square One.”
Reavis is proposing a voluntary membership plan which will provide coverage to rural residents in Hornbeak’s designated 71-square-mile rural fire district. He explained there would be a $75 “member rate” for those who voluntarily pay a membership fee. Non-members could still receive service at “actual time” or “actual cost,” billed at a rate calculated on the equipment and firefighters which respond to a rural call and the hours involved, ranging from a minimum of $2,000 up to $5,000.
He has sent his plan to the Municipal Technical Advisory Service for review and Hornbeak’s alderman have been given copies to study. At Monday’s budget committee meeting, he referenced a copy of a 1990 agreement when Obion County gave the Town of Hornbeak permission to run in a designated area and he explained he is seeking the county commission’s authority to exclusively sell the service in Hornbeak’s rural fire coverage area and to reaffirm his designated area, now identified by a grid block system.
The proposal will be on the county commission’s agenda when it convenes June 18.
Reavis said the proposed plan would give Hornbeak the opportunity to basically operate a rural fire service like it has for the past 30 years, but with a membership plan instead of a subscription program. With the membership plan, Hornbeak’s firefighters could respond to every call in their designated rural fire district and check the membership list upon their return. A member would receive a reduced rate or even possibly one free rural call per year with paid membership, while a non-member would be billed for the actual cost of firefighting service.
He said the $75 annual membership fee equates to just 21 cents per day. “That’s one cigarette,” he told aldermen.
Reavis said he has found a way to extract information from a database of rural fire subscribers in order to send membership letters and do billing. Customers would be asked to make their first membership payment in person at Hornbeak City Hall and a membership push would be held during July and August.
Last year, Hornbeak collected rural fire subscriptions from 454 out of a possible 696 rural customers and Reavis said their 65 percent participation rate shows people are in support of a rural fire program.
In related action, Hornbeak’s board approved Reavis adding a $2,500 line item to the fire department budget for rural fire membership fees, which would cover mailing supplies and labor for a firefighter to administer the program.
The other significant item to be considered by Hornbeak’s aldermen in the coming days is the town’s 2012-13 budget.
The board voted Tuesday night to keep the town’s current property tax rate of 82 cents and approved the first of three required readings of a proposed budget. All of the aldermen have copies of the proposed budget in the form of a worksheet with a draft of a 2012-13 budget.
City recorder Joyce Truett urged aldermen to review the figures and bring the worksheet back for the next reading and Vice Mayor Dennis Dozier said there will likely have to be a called meeting during the budget process.
In other action during Tuesday night’s 70-minute meeting, the Hornbeak board:
• Heard a complaint from resident Leslie Hamm, who alleges a neighbor is disturbing the peace by playing drums. Several other residents and some aldermen also said they have heard the noise from the drums.
Hamm questioned a vote by the board last month to allow the neighbor to play his drums during a designated time of 3-6 p.m. and said disturbing the peace is a criminal offense, adding he has been in contact with the sheriff’s department. Hornbeak Police Chief Ronnie Moore said he can cite an offender for a misdemeanor offense, such as disturbing the peace or unnecessary noise, but he said it is not an arrestable offense. Alderman Paul Truett said citing the alleged offender into court would “get his attention.”
The board voted to rescind last month’s action to set any designated time for the resident to play his drums.
• Voted to switch to Alexander Thompson Arnold for the town’s audit after receiving a quote of $10,000 for the regular audit service. Ms. Truett said the current auditor is charging $8,500 and, since 2009, the town has received late letters from the state comptroller’s office.
• Learned Dozier will meet Friday with Municipal Technical Advisory Service consultant David Angerer in regard to the town’s annexation project.
• Accepted a bid for a street project which involves building up a shoulder and widening a street.
• Gave permission for a new free-standing 75-foot communications tower the state wants to place at the town’s ballpark in the future.
• Voted to pay invoices that include $300 for a pump test; sewer program maintenance; $1,662 for an accident/sickness policy; $159.35 to Reynolds Brothers for a tire on a fire department medical van; and $1,049 for a copier.
• Approved the purchase of two basketball goal sets for $1,655, which includes two whole units with shipping, for the ballpark.
Alderman Christina Gray was absent from Tuesday night’s meeting.
Published in The Messenger 6.6.12

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