It astounds me how we expect volunteer fire departments to come a running in the middle of the night when we wake up and smell something burning inside the house, yet we don’t want to pay a penny for the service. It seems much of Warren County is perfectly happy to live on fire coverage welfare, hoping the next guy will foot the bill.
Folks, these men and women of our rural fire departments are volunteers, yet they have to do fundraisers and come up with novel ways to make money to keep their trucks running and their gear updated so they can help the public. What’s wrong with this picture? Why should they have to spend their time and effort to help at wrecks and fight fires and pay for their own training and then go out and raise money because folks throw their fire subscription bills in the trash? It’s a broken system.
As you may have read Sunday, the county is considering increasing the amount it gives volunteer fire departments by budgeting more Warren County taxpayer dollars to each rural agency. While that’s a good gesture and something we may need to consider as a stopgap measure, it’s not the right way to go. Why? Because it imposes a wrongful double taxation on residents of the city of McMinnville who already pay for full-time fire coverage as part of their city taxes. If this were to pass, city residents, who also pay full county taxes, would be paying double for fire departments.
It is obvious the present billing formula does not work since there are numerous people who won’t pay their annual subscription fee. Whether it is just plain being cheap or just forgetful since the bill comes only once a year, the dues aren’t being paid to the departments. Something has to be done and the answer isn’t more fish fries and pancake breakfasts.
The best idea and fairest thing is to have the fire department bill added onto everyone’s Caney Fork Electric bill. This was discussed a while back but was never enacted. I contacted a spokesperson for Caney Fork and he said they do collect solid waste fees from customers in White County. However, the key issue there is that the solid waste fees are mandated by the county.
That’s the first thing we have to do before we can perhaps use Caney Fork for collection. The county will have to mandate its residents having to pay rural fire bills.
And, as part of any deal that might be struck, the fees would have to be the same for every rate payer, no matter what fire department serves them. Also, Caney Fork would not cut off your power for not paying your fire bill. They would not be the enforcer. They would simply cut Warren County a check once a month and report anyone who disputed their fire bill.
I’m told if Warren County government and the rural fire departments would be willing to meet these requirements the Caney Fork board would consider putting the subscriptions on the power bills. The first move will be up to county government.
Standard reporter Duane Sherrill can be reached at 473-2191.