The Jenkins Rural Fire Department becomes the latest volunteer firefighting force to seek voter approval for formation of a tax-supported fire district.
To inform voters about the upcoming ballot issue, the fire department will host two town hall meetings to discuss the proposal. Town hall meetings are slated for Friday, Feb. 22 at the Oak Ridge Baptist Church on Highway 248 west of Jenkins and on Saturday, March 29 at the Jenkins Fire Station #1 on Highway 39. Both meetings will begin at 6:30 p.m.
The department is asking citizens within its boundaries to approve a 30-cent property tax levy to support the district. This information will be presented to those attending the public meetings and there will be time set aside for questions. Residents will also be able to calculate how much the proposed tax will cost them annually by bringing their 2007 tax receipt to the meeting.
If approved, the Jenkins Rural Fire Department will become the Jenkins Fire Protection District. The new department will be supported by all taxpayers rather than just those who pay their dues.
"Non-member fire calls are always responded to, but collection of the debt owed to the department is not a sure thing," said Preston Guthrie, secretary-treasurer of the fire department. "This measure will guarantee much needed funding."
Becoming a tax-supported district will also provide the department with more money to invest in equipment and training.
"Our engines are dependable, but they are showing their age," said Fire Chief Brian Sisco. "Our front-line engine is a 45-year-old International. I am not looking to ask the board to invest in a new engine, just something more current than 1963."
Last year, Jenkins firefighters were denied a FEMA grant for a new engine but the department plans to apply for Assistance to Firefighters funding again this year.
"Bottom line is we need this tax-supported district," said Board President James Vincent. "With tighter federal requirements, ISO guidelines to follow, increased call volume and overall cost increase for our supplies, we need this secure funding source. By reducing the ISO rating through training and equipment, the average household stands to save 20 to 30 percent on their homeowner insurance policy."
For more information on the ballot issue, call Vincent at 417-723-8385.