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VFDs need radios, tax increase to buy them

Volunteer fire departments in Lincoln County cannot easily communicate with emergency responders from other agencies because they are using outdated radios.

That seems to be problem in need of a quick fix. 

The new radio system that will allow the eight volunteer departments to talk to law enforcement and other first responders will cost about $400,000. That’s real money, and it will likely require a small tax increase to fund it.

Lincoln County Fire Coordinator and Emergency Management Director Clifford Galey, backed by a handful of fire chiefs and fire association officers, made the official request Monday on behalf of the Lincoln County Volunteer Firefighters Association, which is seeking an increase in its dedicated millage to help secure a nearly $400,000 loan for 230 new radios.

The new radios would allow the volunteer fire departments to communicate on the 700 MHz frequencies used by the Mississippi Wireless Information Network, established by law in 2005. The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, Brookhaven Police Department, Brookhaven Fire Department, Mississippi Highway Patrol and King’s Daughters Medical Center EMTs all use MSWIN radios after upgrading in recent years.

Lincoln County supervisors tabled the matter Monday, opting to discuss it during budget workshops in the coming weeks. That’s prudent, but surely supervisors will grant the association’s request. How can they not?

While a tax increase is never popular, they are sometimes necessary. And this certainly seems like one of those times.

Not all supervisors are convinced it’s a wise use of tax dollars.

“The thing we’re faced with is, what good will it do to spend money on these radios and we can’t even get to the customers because the bridge is out,” District 5 Supervisor Doug Falvey said. “You said you haven’t had an increase since 2007, but the county hasn’t had an increase in the fuel tax since 1985.”

Falvey apparently believes tax dollars should be spent on roads and bridges and nothing else. While infrastructure is important, there is more to good governance than maintaining roads and bridges.