• 59°

County fire units awaiting results of annexation

As Brookhaven pursues annexation that will take some of theirareas, Lincoln County volunteer fire department officials expect agood working relationship with the city to continue.

However, some county fire officials have some concerns about therevenue impact on their departments. Officials, though, were unsureof the exact number of people and area that would be taken in bythe city and the potential financial impact.

“It’s a wait and see situation,” said Clifford Galey, countyfire coordinator.

Officials on both sides of the current city limits areunderstanding of the other’s situation.

“We understand the city’s need to annex, and hopefully everyonerealizes the reasoning behind it,” Galey said.

Brookhaven Fire Chief Paul Cartwright indicated that cityofficials would be meeting with volunteer fire officials to go overcity annexation plans. He expected that to be done sometime afterfirst of month.

“They certainly don’t want to lose anything they’ve got, and Idon’t want to see that either,” Cartwright said.

City Attorney Joe Fernald said officials were still looking atthe ramifications of annexation on areas such as the volunteer firedepartments and water associations. He said the departments wouldbe able to continue to function and provide a needed service.

“They’re a valuable element of fire protection,” Fernaldsaid.

A city annexation would affect a majority of the county’sdepartments. An over 16-square mile annexation area would impactthe New Sight, Heuck’s Retreat, East Lincoln, Hog Chain, Zetus andLoyd Star fire coverage areas.

“The only ones it’s not going to affect are Bogue Chitto andRuth,” Galey said.

An area of concern for county departments is revenue from countyproperty tax millage and state fire insurance rebate funds.Departments also receive donations from residents in their coverageareas.

In the county, three-quarters of a property tax mill go tosupport volunteer fire departments. Also, departments receive fireinsurance rebate funds based on population, Galey said.

“When our population goes down, part of that money will godown,” Galey said.

Jim Craig, Heuck’s Retreat Volunteer Fire Department chief, saidhis department was fortunate to receive $50,000 state grant to usetoward the purchase of a new $180,000 truck. Fire departments usefund-raisers, savings and other revenue sources to make up thedifference.

“We can afford that now with the money we get from the state,the county and the people of the district,” said Craig, indicatinga concern about the department’s ability to pursue similarpurchases in the future.

Mike Boyd, the New Sight Volunteer Fire Department chief, echoedtax-related reservations from people in his district.

“A lot of people out there don’t want it,” Boyd said. “Theydon’t want to be in the city.”

Officials did not expect any departments’ existence to bejeopardized by the city expansion.

“We’ll still have a good bit of territory,” Boyd said.

Regarding service areas and boundary lines, fire officials saidlines have been crossed whenever needed in the past. City crews goto county areas when called on for fire assistance, and both groupshave Jaws of Life equipment to help the other if needed.

“We go to Lakewood Village and a lot of other areas,” Cartwrightsaid.

Boyd also indicated a cooperative spirit between thedepartments.

“We’ve never had a problem with them. We’ve always worked goodtogether,” Boyd said.

Any annexation-related changes would not be immediate.

Cartwright mentioned that there would be a need for new stationand fire plugs in the expanded city area. In requesting anannexation, city officials must be able to show they can provideservices within a reasonable time frame, usually five years.

Galey said water assistance related to lines and on-scene needswould be one area where county departments could help the cityfollowing an annexation.

“We don’t have a problem with that. We’ve been working togetherfor years,” Galey said.