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Board delays plan to charge for fire service

Mayor David Nichols and the Monticello Board of AldermenWednesday delayed a controversial grass fire response policy thatwould have charged residents a fee for the service.

The policy, proposed by Nichols, would allow the fire departmentto charge city and county residents a fee when the department iscalled to extinguish a grass fire. The fee would only be leviedwhen residents attempted to burn fields, trash or garbage inunfavorable weather conditions, Nichols said.

On Wednesday, though, the board and Nichols agreed to firstattempt a different tactic.

“We want to do a massive public education campaign first,” themayor said. “Our desire is not to fine people, but to protectproperty and lives.”

The policy proposal was in response to the “sheer number ofgrass fires” the fire department has responded to in recent months.In several cases, he said, the department has responded to the sameaddress numerous times when landowners continuously tried to burndebris despite the dry conditions and winds.

The state allows fire departments to charge a fee of up to $500for grass fire responses, Nichols said.

Following Wednesday’s decision, Nichols, who is also a volunteerfirefighter in the department, said the proposal may come up in thefuture should the situation not improve.

In other matters, the board selected May 6 to welcome home thetroops of the 155th Brigade Combat Team. Although soldiers departedas a unit in January 2005, their return has been by the handful asthey were relieved by fresh troops. Most of the soldiers arrivedhome in December and January.

The soldiers will be honored with a parade down Broad Street at10 a.m. beginning at the Lawrence County Civic Center and ending atthe courthouse. Maj. Gen. Harold Cross, the state adjutant general,will be the guest speaker.

Plans for a reception to follow are still being made, Nicholssaid.

The board is also asking teams who wish to use the LawrenceCounty Sportsplex for practices and games to sign up and registerat city hall until a city recreation director can be appointed.

The move is designed to help with scheduling and to preventpossible conflicts where more than one team may be assigned to aparticular field at a time during practices.