Coffee County to vote on fire protection fee

By: Denise Bradberry Email
By: Denise Bradberry Email

Coffee county residents won't be voting just on primary nominations Tuesday.

They'll also be asked whether or not they support a new emergency services fee.

Coffee County has 10 fire departments, and with the exception of Enterprise, they're all volunteer.

They say this emergency service fee would give them necessary funding for citizens’ protection.

Coffee County volunteer fire departments currently receive around $17,000 a year from tobacco taxes, but Tim Driscoll with the Tri-Community Volunteer Fire Department says the funding simply isn't enough.

“The tobacco tax has actually been declining, the cost of our fuel bill is doubling every year, our insurance has doubled since we originally opened the station in 1986, the amount for turnout gear and other equipment has tripled in price,” says Driscoll.

First responders explain that the county's volunteer trucks are an average age of 20 years and each department spend around $6,000 a year just on insurance.

That’s why they're pushing to pass a $30 a year fire protection and emergency medical service fee across the county for households and commercial structures.

“We're not talking about small little outbuildings and stuff, we're talking about structures that are for the business, it does not include agricultural production buildings at all, so chicken houses are not affected,” says Coffee County Firefighter's Association President Joseph McCollough.

They expect the fee to give them an additional $25,000 each year per station.

The fee would be added to your yearly property tax, so if you're not currently paying property taxes you'd be exempt from this new fee.

McCollough says the tax is much like fees in Houston and Dale Counties with one major difference.

"Instead of it being divided among all the departments in the county it stays in the department's area where it's paid," says McCollough.

First responders say in about five to ten years the fee may even allow them to have one full-time position in each volunteer fire department.

"For most people it will mean they will have a better equipped, better trained fire department and also EMS services. We're trying to get EMS services closer to the rural areas, and also if your fire department improves most of the time your home owners insurance will go down too," says McCollough.

20% of the money will go to EMS service and 80% to the fire departments.

A small portion will also go toward a future county-wide training center for all of the departments.

The Coffee County Firefighter's Association has posted more information about the proposed fee on their website

The polls will be open Tuesday, June 1st from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.

You can find a link to all polling places on our Political Page.

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