Purdy firefighters get go ahead to pursue district

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Voters who reside within the Purdy Volunteer Fire Department membership coverage area, which is roughly based on the Purdy R-II School District, will have a second opportunity to vote on the formation of a tax-based fire protection district on Aug. 7.

"We have had several people approach us about putting the issue on the ballot again,"?said Mike Redshaw, Purdy fire chief. "Some people felt like they were misinformed the first time, which could change their vote.

"Others didn't go vote, because they didn't feel they had enough information," said Redshaw. "After talking to area residents we felt there was enough interest to warrant placing the issue on the ballot again."

Last year, only a week before the issue was scheduled to go before voters, Barry County Associate Circuit Judge Carr Woods ruled that the election results for the fire protection district issue would not count. Woods based his decision on discrepancies in the legal description of the Purdy Fire Department's boundary lines.

Although the election results would not be official, Purdy voters were allowed to cast votes regarding the issue during the August 2006 election. The issue gained support from around 40 percent of voters who turned out for the election.

In hopes of avoiding a similar situation, the Purdy Fire Department hired Cassville attorney David Cole to review the legal description before it was submitted to Woods again. On May 9, Woods approved the Purdy Fire Department's request to place the issue on the Aug. 7 ballot.

"We made sure the description was solid," said Redshaw. "We have gone through everything step by step to ensure there are no errors this time. The description is essentially the same boundary we originally proposed, which is based on the school district and the boundaries approved by the Barry County Fire Chiefs Associa-tion. We just made sure the errors were resolved."

If approved, the tax-based fire protection district will be funded by a 30-cent property tax, which means residents will be charged 30 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

Tax-based support would provide the Purdy Fire Department with between $66,000 and $70,000 per year for operating expenses, new equipment, training and other capital expenses.

"We plan to place a substation near McDowell. That will be our first priority," said Redshaw. "We will also update and replace our equipment throughout the fire department."

Currently, the department is operating on a $20,000 annual budget, which is provided through membership dues and a portion of the city's general revenue funds.

"After insurance costs, our budget does not leave a lot of funding for new equipment," said Redshaw. "We obtained a new ISO evaluation, and we know what needs to be done to drop the rating. We just don't have the funding to meet many of the requirements."

The Purdy Fire Department has an ISO rating of 8 inside the city and 9 in rural areas. If the proposed fire protection district is formed, Redshaw hopes to drop the rating, which would reduce insurance costs for many residents served by the department.

"We will try to make an initiative to get out in the public and make sure that people have good, correct information about the issue," said Redshaw. "We want everyone to understand what we are doing and why."

The Monett Rural Fire Association, which is protesting the Purdy Fire Protection District issue, has stated that the tax-based district is not necessary. According to the association, adequate fire protection services are currently being offered through the Monett Rural Association with funding provided by membership dues.

Although the Monett Rural Fire Association has filed a petition to establish official boundaries for the Monett association, boundary lines remain contested. In addition to providing tax-supported fire protection, if approved the proposed Purdy Fire Protection District will establish an official boundary line, which will be recorded and protected under Missouri statutes.

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