Chris Cooper Managing Editor
April 24, 2014
Although the 2014-2015 county budget is far from finalized, it looks as if the five rural fire departments of Adairville, Auburn, Lewisburg, Olmstead and Russellville will be seeing a substantial increase in funding, however, the way it will be distributed is still in question.
The rural fire departments have been receiving $30,000 each annually. The proposed increase, as it is written now, calls for an additional $10,000 each. Magistrate Jo Orange, however, isn’t sure giving those additional funds out evenly is the way to go.
“First of all, I fully support our fire departments and appreciate the jobs they all do,” said Orange. “However, after the meeting we had a month ago with the departments, I’m wondering if we might be better off taking that additional money and letting the departments apply for special projects they are doing, or equipment that needs to be purchased.”
Orange mentioned that during that meeting, some spoke saying the Olmstead department was doing fine with what they were getting.
“I think that may be a more fair way to distribute the additional funding because some of the departments cover more areas, houses and businesses than the others do, and have more runs,” said Orange. “In saying that, though, I fully support the money the fiscal court gives to the fire departments, because as whole they use it wisely, and use it to protect Logan County.”
Russellville Rural Fire Chief Cheryl Allen was taken back by the proposed increase saying it will definitely help the department.
“Wow, that is pretty good. This will definitely help,” said Allen.
Allen also attributed the proposed increase to the meeting held to discuss the possibility of placing the fire dues on the tax bills.
“I’m sure this is probably in response to our trying to lobby to get the dues on the tax bills,” said Allen. “But I want people to know that issue is really separate, and was being pushed to help with a better way to contact all of our membership. This proposed $10,000 is gonna help, but it’s not going to eliminate the need for us to still have fundraisers. The whole intent with lobbying our membership dues to be placed on the tax bills was to be able to reach all of our customers.”
Allen said she is very grateful to the county for the proposed additional funding, however it is distributed, but knows different department have more expenses then smaller ones in the county.
“You take a department has 77 runs and then one that has in the hundreds, there are a lot more expense equated. It wouldn’t bother me a bit to have it distributed by run volume instead of across the board,” said Allen.
Auburn’s Rural Fire Chief Jim Kutzman said he greatly appreciates the fiscal court for the possible increase, but agrees with Allen that it’s going to take more funding to get things done.
“We are still going to need a way to better reach our membership,” said Kutman, who says he plans on continuing to lobby to put the fire dues on the tax bills.
“I had two calls the other day from people who just moved to the Auburn area. They thought the membership dues would appear on the tax bills because that was what they were used to where they came from,” said Kutzman. “This additional funding would be very helpful, but it won’t alleviate the problems we face by being underfunded.”
Kutzman said there are still a lot of things he needs to do in his area and its gonna take more than the $10,000 to get that done.
“We will continue to hold fundraisers and work on getting our membership dues collected,” said the Auburn chief. “And we will continue to lobby for getting the dues on the tax bills. I’m not doing this for the money, but for the fire protection in our communities.”
Lewisburg Firefighter Lonnie Epley spoke on behalf of himself and his board and department saying they were happy with what the county is doing for them.
“We thought it was great. Any amount of money we get will help us,” said Epley. “For us this is a better deal then placing the dues on the tax bills. We feel funding the fire departments should come from the county, after all the occupational tax was passed years ago riding in on the shirt-tales of the fire departments. We appreciate this court for considering the increase.”
Logan County Judge-Executive Logan Chick reminds the departments the proposal for increase is just a preliminary one listed on the 2014-2015 budget that was aknowledged Tuesday, and that it is early in the process and nothing is definite.
“I proposed the increase for the fire departments evenly across the board because you never know the seriousness of an incident occurring anywhere in the county,” said Chick. “Every fire department in every area deserves the opportunity of getting new equipment to help aid the community. I told the departments at the meeting we had with them that I would look at the budget to see if we could give an increase. I know it’s small, but I think we are going in the right direction.”
The Dunmor and Allensville departments are budgeted to stay the same at $10,000 and $500 annually.