Martin's rural fire fee hike tabled
By Sabrina Bates, Chief Staff Writer
After receiving public input concerning a possible increase in the rural fire fee subscription for residents living outside of the city limits in Martin, board members tabled a plan to adopt the increase until the board’s informal session in May.
Several residents turned out for Monday evening’s public hearing on the ordinance, which states yearly rural fire fees will increase from $70 to $100.
While the bulk of the community members that addressed the board were not against an increase in the subscription, questions were raised regarding the placement of the collected rural fire fees into the City of Martin’s general fund.
Citizen input also revealed rural homeowners asking how the public works committee determined a $30 increase in the fund and how that money would benefit the Martin Fire Department’s budget.
“I am not opposed to the fire tax on non-city residents. I do not expect the city taxpayers to subsidize my fire protection … I am opposed to the fire tax being placed in the general fund, this designates non-city dwellers taxpayers in the City of Martin. We have no vote,” Don V. Jones wrote in a letter to board members.
“I understand that approximately 40-45 percent on non-city taxpayers do not pay. Last year the city collected approximately $86,000. This $30 increase will add approximately another $30,000 in the general fund. What/where did you spend this money on? … I would also suggest to this Mayor and Board that a fund be set up for the purpose of placing in it, the fire tax collected from outside of the city. If the city cannot survive without this money in the general fund, at least add a portion, say 40 percent,” Jones added. Jones letter further stated non-residents’ complaint with the tax involves accountability to ensure the money goes directly to the MFD and nowhere else from the general fund.
According to a report issued by MFD Chief Russell Schwahn, the expense the department incurs from rural fire calls includes personnel payments and fuel.
There are, on average, nine volunteer firemen on rural “all calls” at $7.50 an hour for a minimum two-hour call and an average of six full time firemen that respond to a rural “all call” which totals $180 per call for the first two hours the department is on the scene.
Schwahn’s report states there were 811 rural calls between 2001 and 2007 and fuel costs on average accounted for $2,916 in expenses.
The department has managed to recoup only $510,000 from customers during that time out of a total $726,000 billed out.
Rural fire calls have increased from 31 calls in 2001 to 238 calls in 2007 which has in turn increased mileage from 132 miles in 2001 to 1,262 miles in 2007.
The cost of diesel fuel has risen from $1.52 per gallon in 2001 to $3.93 a gallon in 2008.
Schwahn’s report also shows the federal minimum has increased every year since 2007 with another increase to $7.25 an hour beginning July 24, 2009.
The last time the city increased rural fire fee subscriptions was 2001. Financial reports concerning rural fire fee subscriptions are to be presented at the city’s informal meeting scheduled for 5:15 p.m. on Tuesday, May 6.
The ordinance to adopt the increase in rural fire fees was tabled until that date.
In resolution news, board members passed the following:
• A resolution authorizing the City of Martin to issue three-year taxable capital outlay notes for $1.5 million for the purpose of purchasing the First State Bank building located on University Street in downtown Martin with interest only to be paid for the duration of the notes.
The city has agreed to purchase the building and lease it to First State Bank while the company builds a new banking location. First State Bank has agreed to pay all taxes, insurance and the interest on the capital outlay note until the company relocates.
• A resolution authorizing the City of Martin to issue tax-exempt bonds or enter into a Loan Agreement with a public building authority in the mount of $1.5 million to provide long-term tax exempt financing for the purchase of the First State Bank building.
While board members passed the resolution Monday evening, residents of the city have 20 days from today to sign a petition containing 10 percent of registered voters of the city and file the petition with the city recorder protesting the issue of indebtedness.
In public works news, board members voted to allow the replacement of traffic lights at the intersection of Main and McCombs streets to be paid by TDOT using Surface Transportation funds that have been allocated to the city for 2008.
The board also agreed to allow the lease of two boom trucks for the streets department and for Brundige to accept the low bid on the lease of the trucks.
S & D Trucking of Gates, Tenn. submitted the lowest bid of $75,000 to resolve the drainage issue and flooding of Hyndsver Road. Board members accepted the low bid from the company.
City-wide Spring Clean-up Week is set for April 21-25 with cemetery clean up set for April 14-17. The board will meet in an informal session at 5:15 p.m. on Tuesday, May 6.