Polk County looks to put a fire plan in place if com­mis­sion ap­proves

The Standard Journal - - FRONT PAGE - By KEVIN MYRICK Ed­i­tor

Polk County res­i­dents who have seen a big in­crease in their home­own­ers in­sur­ance due to an in­crease in the In­sur­ance Ser­vice Or­ga­ni­za­tion rat­ing for fire pro­tec­tion will have a chance at some re­lief thanks to a new plan be­ing put be­fore the Board of Com­mis­sion­ers.

A plan that has been in the works for months be­tween County Man­ager Matt Denton and Public Safety Di­rec­tor Randy Lacey will look to pro­vide round the clock fire pro­tec­tion for county res­i­dents, but prop­erty own­ers from the small­est plot to the big­gest in­dus­try will have to help pay for that pro­tec­tion.

Denton and Lacey pre­sented the plan dur­ing the county’s Public Safety com­mit­tee meet­ing on Sept. 29, and then to the full board af­ter press time dur­ing their Oct. 3 work ses­sion and the Oct. 4 full meet­ing.

Com­mis­sion­ers will get to

vote on whether to put into place a plan that will put a fire­fighter in seven out of nine sta­tions in Polk County 24 hours a day, with both full time and part time hires planned to make the cov­er­age plan work.

Part time fire­fighrers would be in ev­ery sta­tion through­out the week for 12 hours a day, and three new bat­tal­ion chiefs would also have to be hired.

Lacey and Denton said the fire depart­ment would also need to em­ploy a part time train­ing cap­tain as well.

The over­all plan would al­low for the de­crease of re­sponse time, Lacey said, and also en­sure that fire­fight­ers are ar­riv­ing at emer­gency scenes with­out long waits for equip­ment or vol­un­teers to ar­rive.

It would also even­tu­ally re­quire a con­sol­i­da­tion of the cur­rent nine sta­tions and re­mod­el­ing or new sta­tions in the fu­ture, Lacey said.

The kicker, Denton said, would be the need to add a fee to prop­erty tax bills in Polk County.

These fees wouldn’t be due on the cur­rent year’s bills, which went out in Septem­ber, but would be added to the 2017 tax bills next year if the plan is ap­proved by the board.

A slid­ing scale – set based on what kind of prop­erty is be­ing pro­tected, not on how large it is – will be set in place to pay for the nearly $1.9 mil­lion bill to start the pro­gram.

“On av­er­age, we’d as­sess fees around $135 a year per par­cel,” Denton said.

Home­own­ers are ex­pected to pay much less than that per year on the new fees, since com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial prop­er­ties are also be­ing in­cluded in the av­er­age for the fees.

Com­mis­sion­ers are get­ting to vote on the plan in part to start work­ing to­ward get­ting a grant to help pay for newly hired fire­fight­ers for the first two years they are on the job.

Pre­vi­ously, fire plans have been put be­fore vot­ers to choose whether to start a paid fire depart­ment, but they have failed in nar­row neg­a­tive ma­jori­ties.

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