Butterfield fire district passes, Purdy fails

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Voters in the Purdy R-II School District defeated a tax-supported fire protection district issue while Butterfield voters approved the formation of a fire protection district on Aug. 8.

The Purdy Fire Protection District issue received 156 "yes" votes and 233 "no" votes during Tuesday's election.

"We are surprised with the results, but at the same time we are trying not to take this personally," said Mike Redshaw, Purdy Fire Department chief. "We need to decide whether the no votes were a lack of support or a lack of information."

Although Purdy voters defeated the fire protection issue, a majority "yes" vote would not have formed the district at this time. Barry County Associate Circuit Judge Carr Woods ruled last week that the Purdy Fire District election results would not count.

The two-month legal battle over the formation of a proposed district began shortly after Purdy gave legal notice of its intent to seek voter approval for a tax-supported fire protection district during a public hearing on May 12.

"The Purdy Fire Department put one ad in the paper, which is sufficient in accordance to the law, but they should have known that all the other fire districts in the area had a vested interest in the issue," said John Woodard, Monett Rural Fire Association attorney. "They should have given each association notice even though they didn't have to."

In June, after the Monett Rural Fire Association and several other organizations that could have been affected by the proposed district did not attend the public hearing to express opposition to the ballot issue, Woods issued an order placing the Purdy Fire Protection District issue on the Aug. 8 ballot.

When the Monett Rural Fire Association became aware of the proposed issue, it sued in Barry County to reverse the judge's order.

On July 28, Woodard challenged the accuracy of the boundary descriptions that appeared on the Aug. 8 ballot. According to Woodard, Monett engineer Kevin Sprenkle pointed out around six property description discrepancies.

After reviewing the ballot, Woods decided that errors in the description that appeared on the ballot showed that the proposed district had not been properly defined in the petition filed on May 12.

"If we approach this issue again, we will make sure our description is able to withstand the scrutiny of the experts," said Redshaw. "We plan to get an engineer to write the property description for us.

"We will also make an effort to get the right information out to our voters, opposed to the misleading information and publicity that has been put out by our opponent during the last couple of weeks," said Redshaw.

If Purdy seeks voter support for a fire protection district in the future, Redshaw plans to distribute more information door-to-door and hold several public meetings to inform the public of the issue.

The Monett Rural Fire Association claims that the proposed Purdy Fire Protection District would encompass one-third of its dues-paying members.

"Hopefully we can make arrangements to enter into an agreement with Purdy so that we are able to plead our case at the public hearing if the issue comes up again," said Woodard. "We hope if this comes up again the boundaries will be shrunk."

If the Purdy Fire Depart-ment sticks strictly to the Purdy R-II School District boundary lines it will not affect Monett Rural Fire Association members, said Woodard.

"Right now we will do what we've been doing, respond to calls and keep up the enthusiasm for helping our community," said Redshaw. "We plan to keep doing what we've been doing."

Barry County will still see the formation of one new fire protection district. Butterfield residents narrowly approved a tax-supported Butterfield Fire Protection District with 73 "yes" votes and 59 "no" votes.

"We are very excited about the results and glad that the community thought we needed the extra income for a fire protection district," said Tommy Ray, Butterfield Fire Department chief. "We will continue to protect our residents the best we can, and we will begin upgrading our equipment as soon as possible."

The Butterfield tax-based fire protection district will be funded by a 30-cent real estate and personal property tax. Butterfield's current membership system, which charges residents $40 inside the city limits and $45 in rural areas, will be terminated.

The fire protection tax will provide the Butterfield Fire Department with between $25,000 and $40,000 each year.

The department plans to update its equipment and build a substation in the east section of its district to lower ISO ratings and insurance costs in that area.

Butterfield voters also approved a five-member board of trustees, which include: Patricia Privett, James Taylor, Barbara Ray, Eugene Taggart and Kelly Tolbert.

The newly elected Butterfield Fire Protection District Board of Trustees will hold its first meeting within the next month.

In the only contested Barry County race, incumbent Gary Youngblood won his fourth term as Barry County clerk. Youngblood received 1,703 votes to Jan Enloe's 364 votes.

Only 15.51 percent of Barry County voters turned out for the general municipal election on Aug. 8. Of the 19,089 registered voters in the county, only 2,960 individuals cast a ballot in Tuesday's election.

All Barry County General Municipal Election results for Aug. 8 are listed on page 20 of this issue of the Cassville Democrat.

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