Barbour County Fire Fee Passes

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Residents in one Wiregrass county were not only selecting a presidential candidate in Tuesday’s election, they also decided on a measure which could one day save their lives.

Fire trucks that don't work and equipment that is outdated; that’s how 11 volunteer fire departments in Barbour County have been operating. However, a vote Tuesday night will soon change that.

Mike Stella, with the Barbour County Volunteer Firefighter Association, said, "The vote was 1,554 for it, 1,288 against it, so it passed by 346 votes."

Stella says Tuesday night’s vote passed, projecting an estimated $220,000 dollars to help volunteer fire departments.

However, Stella says he did have some concerns about the turnout. "The bill clearly states that the fee can only be used for vehicle purchases and vehicle repairs, firefighting equipment, training of firefighters and liability insurance for the fire departments and that's all it can be used for,” he explained. “Word got out it can be used for salaries, which it cannot be used for."

Volunteers at Baker Hill Fire Department say the extra money will help generate more funds into the department, helping buy new equipment that could possibly help save lives.

Baker Hill Volunteer Firefighter Bill Klein said, "I think it's the best thing that could happen to our community. It's going to bring us into the 21st century, our equipment and we're going to be able to purchase the proper equipment that we need."

The fee will be put into action beginning in October.

All residents living outside Eufaula city limits will be paying $30 dollars per residence and $75 for commercial buildings. It’s a fee most say is a small price to pay for their safety.

The fee has been in the making since 2006. Stella says the county will not know the definite amount of money collected until the first year of collection has been finished.

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