Area voters to decide fire district issues

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Residents who live within the boundaries served by the Purdy Volunteer Fire Department, the Seligman Area Rural Fire Association (SARFA) or the Pierce City Fire Department will have the opportunity to decide important tax issues next week. The three fire departments have placed tax-based fire protection district issues on the Aug. 7 ballot.

"Our biggest reason for seeking approval for a fire district is to protect the life and property of the people who reside inside the district," said Mike Redshaw, Purdy fire chief. "We are trying to do what we can to make sure the people are safe by having the emergency people and equipment there to assist in any emergency they might have."

The Purdy Volunteer Fire Department is asking voters within its boundaries to approve a 30-cent property tax. If approved, the tax support would spread the fire department's costs among all Purdy residents and eliminate the current membership system.

Currently, the department raises around $20,000 per year in membership dues, donations and fundraisers. The funds are used for insurance costs, capital improvements and maintenance and repair costs.

If the tax issue were approved, the district would receive around $65,000 per year to cover operating expenses. The additional funds would be used to purchase equipment and trucks, said Redshaw.

"If the issue is approved, the voters will get a better equipped and trained fire department that is able to respond to any emergency," said Redshaw. "At the same time, we will be more able to drop the insurance ratings and help everyone out financially."

This week, Redshaw announced that a recent ISO?review has dropped the Purdy Fire Department's rating from an eight to a five inside the Purdy city limits. The ISO rating for the Purdy Fire Department's rural area will remain at a nine due to tanker capacity.

If the tax district issue is approved, the Purdy Fire Department plans to construct a substation in the McDowell area.

"Our number one priority is constructing a McDowell substation because no substation is located within five miles of the residents in that area," said Redshaw. "We also plan to purchase the tankers and equipment that we need to drop the rural insurance ratings and provide the water we need to fight fires outside of town."

Purdy voters will also have the opportunity to elect a five-member board of trustees that will be responsible for governing the proposed fire district.

David Redshaw, Steve Terry, Mike Bennett, Tommy Joe Tate and Glenn Terry have announced candidacy for the first five seats on the board.

The boundary lines used for the Purdy Fire Protection District issue are only roughly based on the Purdy R-II School District. Some district patrons are not included in the boundary lines while other residents who do not reside in the school district may be covered by the fire protection district.

Interested individuals may view a map of the proposed fire district at the Purdy City Hall or the Barry County Clerk's Office.

The Seligman Area Rural Fire Association (SARFA) is also asking voters within its boundaries to approve a 30-cent property tax.

"It is not so much that we want a tax-supported district," said Jerry Harling, SARFA chief. "It is a necessity. Everything costs so much now. Insurance is so high and then you add in fuel, communication costs and everything else. It all costs."

SARFA receives between $10,000 and $12,000 each year in membership dues, which are combined with fundraising monies that are raised by the volunteers throughout the year.

With annual expenses averaging around $20,000 each year, the association often lacks funding to cover all necessary expenses, said Harling.

"If the tax district passes, we won't have a surplus in funds, but we also won't have to worry about having enough money to finish out the year," said Harling. "There have been years when we knew that if we had to fill all of our trucks with fuel, we wouldn't have enough money to cover it."

Wendell Bishop, Bobby Beaver, Paul Still, Ronnie Anderson and Kennetha Scates have announced candidacy for the first five seats on the proposed Seligman Fire Protection District Board of Trustees.

Pierce City will also decide a 30-cent tax levy issue that would support a fire protection district. Jeremy George, Roger Arnold, Mike O'Hara, Jim Larkin and Robert Witt have announced candidacy for the proposed fire district board.

In addition to the increased financial support, if approved, the tax issues will establish official fire district boundary lines that will be recorded and protected under Missouri statutes.

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