Marshall Co. volunteer fire departments consider monthly fees - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Marshall Co. volunteer fire departments consider monthly fees

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Volunteer fire departments including Georgia Mountain, Swearengin and Hebron are petitioning the county commission to be declared as having their own fire districts. Volunteer fire departments including Georgia Mountain, Swearengin and Hebron are petitioning the county commission to be declared as having their own fire districts.
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MARSHALL COUNTY, AL (WAFF) -

People living in Marshall County may soon have to pay for fire service provided by their local volunteer fire department, after a bill passed last year which allows VFDs the opportunity to seek funding.

Currently, residents who live in the county get the benefit of fire service without contributing a dime. Under the local bill that passed, they can continue doing that only if they are majority voters.

There are approximately 20 volunteer fire districts in Marshall County. Volunteer fire departments including Georgia Mountain, Swearengin and Hebron are petitioning the county commission to be declared as having their own fire districts.

The bill that passed last year allows volunteer departments the ability to charge up to $10 a month per household for fire service, although the local fire association said they will initially begin with $5 a month.

Volunteer departments must first be declared a district and then get the blessing of voters in their district. "Once they become a district, that gives them the ability to go out, canvass the voters in that district. If they can get five percent of the people that voted in the last election, a petition, they can have a referendum to vote in that district," said Commission chairman James Hutcheson.

VFD officials said funding has gone down while costs have risen. They believe if residents help them out a little financially, it will go a long way in keeping them safe and cut down on fire insurance costs.

In the Ruth community, their VFD, like many others, holds fundraisers to stay afloat. Residents can help if they want to by adding money for the department on their monthly water bills, but officials said only a handful do.

Richard Lawson with Georgia Mountain VFD said a two-cent-per-pack tobacco tax was passed in 1985 for volunteer departments, bringing in approximately $16,000 per year. But with less smokers today, that has dwindled to around $9,000.

Lawson believes if voters approve the measure, it can help departments get better ratings and insurance rates could, in turn, fall. "Would you rather send the money to the insurance company, or would you rather try and get with your fire department and get it where it's in better shape?" he said.

Hutcheson said the commission is considering approval of those first three districts at their next meeting in early April. Lawson hopes to get petitions started for a possible vote by the residents at the primary or runoff elections in June.

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