Warren County Commissioner Randy England is urging the county to increase its financial donation to volunteer fire departments.
“I would like to see us up that to at least $10,000,” said England. “Or, I would like to see us paying their insurance up to $10,000.”
The statement was made during a county Safety Committee meeting held Monday. Currently, the county donates $3,000 to each volunteer department annually for a total of $21,000 for seven departments.
Commissioner Charles Morgan reminded committee members the county Policy and Personnel Committee oversees charitable donations, not the Safety Committee, to which England added, “We can’t made a recommendation?”
“You can recommend anything, but we don’t set the nonprofits,” said Morgan.
The need for additional funding came to light in March when England informed the committee Harrison Ferry Mountain residents were in danger of losing their fire protection because residents in that area are failing to pay their dues.
Fire Chief Lynn Curtis says he’s been battling this particular financial fire for two years.
“I’ve been battling this,” said Curtis. “This makes my second go around to try to do something.”
He presented ISO insurance numbers to committee members, illustrating the need for increased funding to save homeowners on their insurance premiums.
“If you will look, that is an ISO rating of a 10, versus a 6. On a $225,000 structure, a class 10 is $1,620 a year through your ISO rating. On the same structure, a $225,000 structure, an ISO of 6 takes you down to $920 a year. So, how much money is a fire department saving people in your community?”
Several factors go into the rating, including fire hydrant locations, population, water pressure, and response time.
Commissioner Carl D. Bouldin stated that in order to be a class 6 on the rating, hydrants have to be within 1,000 feet of structures and increased funding will likely not bring the ISO rating in the area down to a 6.
“An ISO of 6 only goes 1,000 feet from a fire hydrant,” said Bouldin. “You have to be within 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant. There are very few people within 1,000 feet from a fire hydrant, especially out in the county.”
Curtis conceded, “That’s true. You could cut that in half and how much are we saving them? About $350 a year on your homeowners insurance, from an 8 to a 10?”
The numbers may be misleading. Bouldin said his ISO rating is a 7 and he saves $100 a year for paying $52 annually to North Warren Volunteer Fire Department.
“I think you need to get the community more involved,” said Bouldin.
Curtis stated, “That’s easier said than done, Carl.”
Harrison Ferry is one of seven volunteer fire departments in the county. Most of those had representatives in attendance at the meeting.
Bouldin asked Viola Volunteer Fire Department Chief Wayne Davenport how his department is doing.
“We are, pretty much, holding our own,” said Davenport. “We had an engine to go down four to five years ago. If it hadn’t been for Viola Valley Homecoming paying that for us, we would have been hurting.”
Community support is lacking in Harrison Ferry, said Bouldin.
“See, that’s what I’m talking about,” he said. “I talked with other departments. Morrison is holding Morrison together. Centertown is holding Centertown together. Dibrell is holding Dibrell together.”
When questioned on how many statements regarding dues are sent out to homeowners, Viola’s department reported sending one statement and two reminders, while Curtis reported sending out one statement.
“They might need that reminder,” said Bouldin. “Everybody seems to be holding their own right now, except for Harrison Ferry. I haven’t talked to Collins River. Of course, everybody could use more assistance. The thing is, it’s hard to tax the entire county because one community is struggling. You are asking us to help all the communities because you are having trouble. You have to get more community involvement.”
The discussion was in excess of an hour. No resolution was reached about how best to correct the financial problem.