Court approves $25 fire dues

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By Bryan Marshall

Discussion continued well after the Grant County Fiscal Court approved a final reading May 7 of an ordinance for subscriber fees for fire departments.

The cost of the dues, which residents of Dry Ridge and Williamstown will be exempt from, will be $25 for the first year.

A property owner who owns multiple real estate parcels will only have to pay fire dues on three of those for a total of $75.

The fee will be put on the tax bills mailed to residents in the fall.

Prior to the meeting, the fire chiefs sent the court an e-mail asking that the amount of the dues be increased to $40 and an opt-out clause be removed.

Those changes were not made before the second reading, but Link said magistrates could address the chiefs’ concerns and vote to amend the ordinance if they choose to.

“The court will continue to have this discussion,” said Link. “I think the community at large will continue this discussion. This isn’t anything that is going to be fixed overnight. It certainly wasn’t fixed this evening. There is going to continue to be ongoing dialogue. This community, including this court and all these firemen, will find that point where at least everyone may be satisfied. I’m hoping.”

The fiscal court hurried through the agenda to accommodate Magistrate Richard Austin, who was heading to his granddaughter’s kindergarten graduation at Williamstown Elementary.

Magistrate Brian Linder did not attend the meeting because he also was attending the ceremony for his daughter.

Although no one in attendance spoke before the vote, Judge-Executive Darrell Link allowed comments after the meeting was adjourned.

Dave Rose, a Grant County resident, notified the court that the Crittenden and Corinth fire departments already have fire dues set at $50 and $40, respectively.

“They should be allowed to have $50 and $40, and anybody coming on you can go ahead and do $25,” he said.

One change since the ordinance was introduced relinquished the fire chiefs’ ability to change the amount of the subscriber fees after the first year.

The ordinance now states that the fiscal court would approve any changes to the amount of the dues.

The fire chiefs would submit an annual report to the fiscal court that included how much money the fire dues brought in and what that funding was used for.

After having a year of data to analyze from the fire dues, the chiefs could ask the magistrates to increase the amount of the fees.

However, any increase would be up to the discretion of the magistrates.

The fiscal court currently provides $25,000 annually to each of the five fire departments — Dry Ridge, Williamstown, Crittenden, Corinth and Jonesville.

Link has said $25,000 will no longer be allocated from the general fund for each department if the dues were passed.

However, if the funds generated by the fire dues falls short of $25,000 per department, the remainder will be made up from the county’s general fund.

Fire chiefs and some residents have argued that an opt-out clause in the ordinance should be removed.

Property owners would have to pay their tax bill in full before filling out a form asking for a refund of their fire subscription dues.

Residents then would have the option to opt out of paying the dues for a particular year or opt out permanently.

Another form could be filled out to opt back in if a resident changed their mind.

A resident who opts to not pay the subscription fee would potentially pay anywhere from $500 for a single family residence to $1,000 for a multi-family residence if they utilize the fire department’s services.

Magistrate Bobby Young said he plans on paying his dues, but he has heard from others who will not.

“I received 28 calls from people who are going to opt out,” he said. “I tried to talk them in to otherwise. There are going to be people who are going to opt out. I can’t believe that either because if my house is on fire, I want somebody to show up.”