Val­ley Lee requests hike in its fire, res­cue taxes

New sta­tion for Com­pany 6 in the works

The Enterprise - - Front Page - By JA­SON BAB­COCK jbab­cock@somd­news.com

The Sec­ond District Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment and Res­cue Squad wants to get the word out early that it plans to in­crease the fire and res­cue taxes that sup­port it in the next fis­cal year to help pay for a new sta­tion.

The de­part­ment, the county’s only com­bined fire and res­cue op­er­a­tion, has been in the same lo­ca­tion since 1961. The sta­tion has been ren­o­vated or added onto six times. There is no more room there, its staff told the St. Mary’s County com­mis­sion­ers on Tues­day, and other costs keep go­ing up.

The de­part­ment is ask­ing per­mis­sion to hike its fire and res­cue tax rates in the fis­cal 2019 year, which does not start un­til July 1, 2018.

The cur­rent rates are dif­fer­ent

in the two elec­tion dis­tricts in Com­pany 6’s first­due re­sponse area.

The fire tax rate in the 2nd District is cur­rently 4.4 cents per $100 of as­sessed value, and 3.6 cents in the 9th District (St. Ge­orge Is­land). Those rates are pro­posed to in­crease to 5.6 cents in the 2nd District and to 5 cents in the 9th District. The last in­crease in the fire tax there was in 2000.

The res­cue tax rate is cur­rently 0.8 of a cent per $100 of as­sessed value in both elec­tion dis­tricts, and is pro­posed to go to 1.7 cents. The last hike in the res­cue tax rate for those two dis­tricts was in 2005.

The to­tal in­crease of the two hikes in the 2nd District would be $29 more a year per $100,000 of a home’s as­sessed value, and in the 9th District, the an­nual in­crease would be $31 a year per $100,000 of as­sessed value.

For a new sta­tion in the Val­ley Lee area, “that is com­pletely worth it,” Com­mis­sioner Tom Jar- boe (R) said. An in­crease of $87 a year for a $300,000 home for a state-of-the-art fa­cil­ity, “I’m all for it,” he said.

The plans for a new sta­tion, which would be lo­cated be­hind the cur­rent sta­tion with an en­trance on Piney Point Road, is still un­der de­sign and an es­ti­mate of its cost is not yet com­pleted, Com­pany 6 of­fi­cials told The En­ter­prise on Tues­day.

“As sup­ported by a 2014 fea­si­bil­ity study, the cur­rent sta­tion is in­ad­e­quate to carry for­ward into the next 50 years,” Com­pany 6 of­fi­cials told the com­mis­sion­ers in a memo. A mem­ber­ship vote of con­fi­dence was made last year for a new sta­tion and “the new sta­tion would pro­vide a safe, modern fa­cil­ity to at­tract and keep younger peo­ple as well as pro­vide con­di­tions for mem­bers to be on site [for] longer pe­ri­ods; thus, re­duc­ing emer­gency re­sponse times.”

“The key to me is you don’t have enough space,” Com­mis­sioner Mike He­witt (R) said.

Com­mis­sioner John O’Con­nor (R) said there was “no com­mu­nity sup- port for this tax in­crease” when it was pre­sented be­fore two years ago. “There was a lot of push­back,” he said.

“We didn’t have all our balls in a bas­ket,” Michael Roberts, public in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer for Com­pany 6, said. “We weren’t as pre­pared as we could have been. I think we’re much more pre­pared this go-round,” he said.

“I don’t think there’s a groundswell of op­po­si­tion. I think there is a rab­ble-rouser,” Jar­boe said. The com­mis­sioner said he heard from many at a com­mu­nity meet­ing at St. Ge­orge Is­land about the pro­posed hike. “Ev­ery per­son in the room said they had no prob­lem what­so­ever with the in­crease,” Jar­boe said.

The Val­ley Lee fire de­part­ment typ­i­cally re- sponds to 340 calls a year and 1,000 am­bu­lance calls a year, the com­mis­sion­ers were told.

In ad­di­tion to the pro­posed hikes in the fire and res­cue tax rates, Val­ley Lee would also pay for the new sta­tion with its own funds, loans, grants, fundrais­ers and do­na­tions.

A com­mu­nity meet­ing about the pro­posed in­creases is sched­uled for Mon­day, Oct. 16, at 7 p.m. at the Sec­ond District Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment and Res­cue Squad com­mu­nity hall at 45245 Dray­den Road in Val­ley Lee.

A for­mal re­quest to the county com­mis­sion­ers on the in­creases would be made in Jan­uary, with a re­quest for a lo­cal public hear­ing which would be held in Fe­bru­ary.

STAFF PHOTO BY JA­SON BAB­COCK

The Val­ley Lee Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment and Res­cue Squad is seek­ing a hike in its fire and res­cue tax rates in the fis­cal 2019 year to help pay for a new sta­tion which is be­ing de­signed.

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