Cleburne (AL) Wants Fee for New Fire Equipment

Cleburne County’s 12 fire departments are asking permission to impose a fee on county tax bills to fund, among other things, new fire engines for each department.

The Cleburne County Association of Volunteer Fire Departments hopes to have a referendum that would ask Cleburne County voters to institute a $50 fee for all residential structures including houses and mobile homes, a $30 fee for agricultural structures over 2,000 square feet including chicken houses and a $150 fee for commercial structures regardless of size.

Chad Roberts, president of the association, said the county’s departments have worked hard to improve their Insurance Service Office ratings, which are used by many insurance companies to determine property insurance rates. The improved ratings have garnered many residents significantly lower property insurance bills. However, in order to maintain the improved ratings, the departments have to continue to upgrade their equipment and training on a regular basis and that takes money, he said.

The association approached the Heflin City Council Dec. 23 and plans to speak with Cleburne County commissioners at their work session Jan. 5 about supporting a referendum to add a flat fee to local tax bills. Carl Smith, treasurer of the association, estimated the proposed fee would bring in $345,000 a year.

The association needs the support of local governing bodies and the approval of the Legislature before the referendum would go before the voters, Roberts said. If the Legislature approves the referendum, it would be held in the November 2016 general election, he said.

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