|Commission OK's rural fire proposal
|Posted: Monday, June 18, 2012 8:56 pm
The Messenger 06.18.12
By CHRIS MENEES
The Obion County Commission has given its blessing to a rural fire membership plan which will allow at least three towns to provide fire protection outside their city limits.
By a vote of 20-0, the commission this morning approved a proposed agreement presented by Hornbeak Fire Chief Bob Reavis.
A countywide rural fire subscription program in existence the past year was halted in early May after the county clerk expressed concerns about her office collecting a fee not authorized by state statute and stopped collecting the rural fire subscription fees.
After much discussion and debate, on June 1, the county commission rejected a proposed fire tax — basically sending the hotly-debated issue of rural fire protection back to square one.
Just three days later, Reavis appeared before the Obion County Budget Committee on June 4 to propose a rural fire membership plan which will solve his town’s issue of how to provide rural fire protection. The commission voted to send the proposal to the full commission for consideration.
This morning, Reavis referenced a 1990 agree-ment when Obion Coun-ty gave the Town of Hornbeak permission to run in a designated area and summarized a fire membership plan which would be offered in Horn-beak’s designated rural fire coverage area.
The membership plan he devised includes elements of both the 1990 agreement and last year’s now basically defunct interlocal agreement for countywide fire protection. It would offer a “member rate” for those who voluntarily pay a membership fee and non-members in Hornbeak’s 71-square-mile rural fire district could still receive service at actual cost — which would be billed at a rate calculated on the equipment and firefighters which respond to the rural call and the hours involved, ranging anywhere from a minimum of $2,000 and up to $5,000.
The plan has been reviewed by both the Municipal Technical Advisory Service and county attorney Steve Conley, who utilized resources from the County Technical Assistance Service.
Reavis said in light of recent developments concerning rural fire protection, he decided to bring Hornbeak’s rural fire program “back home.” He said the towns of Samburg and Rives are also prepared to adopt the membership plan to offer rural fire service in their designated rural coverage areas.
Under the plan, each town would have its own ordinance to set its own fees, policy and procedures.
Reavis said the plan would allow both members and non-members to receive service and 911 would not have to look at a database before the fire department is dispatched. Firefighters would respond to the call and it would later be billed accordingly.
Reavis cautioned that commissioners need to work with other towns which have indicated they will stop providing rural fire coverage outside their city limits effective July 1 and he said Hornbeak will not go into another town’s rural fire district to sell memberships. He said if other towns don’t offer a similar membership or subscription program, they likely will not continue to participate in the auto aid program with neighboring fire departments — which will be a significant loss to the participating towns.
The commission approved the adoption of the proposed membership plan to include Hornbeak, Samburg and Rives and voted to make the plan a template for other towns to use, provided there are no changes. Any changes to the plan would be subject to commission approval.
Reavis said there are two other towns which like the proposed membership plan but there may be five other towns which don’t like it. He said he simply wants the ability to “go home and run my program without county interference.”
In other action during this morning’s meeting, which was opened in prayer led by commissioner Dwayne Hensley and with the Pledge of Allegiance, the county commission:
• Approved a tower space lease between the Obion County Board of Education and Wood Communications.
• Accepted an insurance committee report which noted county employees’ insurance has been renewed for the next year with no increases for the same coverage.
• Was reminded the budget committee will meet 9 a.m. Tuesday at the chancery courtroom.
• Approved eight notary public applications.
• Took no action on a resolution to increase the amount charged for the county jail’s booking fee. The item was removed from this morning’s agenda.
Commissioner Tim Doyle was absent from this morning’s 25-minute meeting.
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.