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Good news and an interesting proposal on MTC agenda

Jaynell Graham
It was announced at Monday night’s Marlinton Town Council meeting that Marlinton Fire Department’s ISO rating had improved from a 5 to a 4, effective March 1, 2017. That is good news for the department, and it is good news for property owners within the department’s response area, as those owners could see a reduction in their fire insurance premiums.

A published Fire Apparatus and Equipment Market Newsletter article titled “Understanding ISO Ratings,” offers some insight to the layman as to just what this rating means. 

“The Insurance Services Office, Inc. (ISO) evaluates fire departments in the United States. Based on this evaluation, they assign a rating between 1 and 10 for each department – 1 being the best and 10 being the worst. This rating reflects the overall effectiveness of the department and helps determine the fire insurance premiums for property owners in that department’s jurisdiction.

“The ISO rating is based on the total number of points in three categories: fire department – 50 points; water supply – 40 points; and communications – 10 points. Each of these three categories is further divided into various sub-categories. For example, the fire department category includes points for apparatus, staffing, training and the distribution of stations. The water supply category includes points for sustained flowrate, water system maintenance, type of supply, etc.”

“The quality of service we provide is as good as any paid department,” Fire Chief Herby Barlow said.

Mayor Sam Felton added that the town’s commitment to fixing water leaks and repairing and replacing hydrants had helped to improve the rating, as well.

The newsletter article went on to say, “Improving a department’s ISO rating is more than just an ego boost for the chief. It can, and does, result in a significant cost savings on fire insurance for every property owner within the department’s jurisdiction.”

While council has amended the Fire Fee Ordinance for town residents, as of now, no action has been taken with regard to a mandatory fire fee for the department’s response area (First Due Area)  outside town limits, where the department responds to 82 percent of its calls. 

At the present time, the fire department is receiving a set monthly fee from the town, based on fire fees paid by residents within the town limits, with the balance of fire fee monies being held in an escrow account for replacement of equipment and big ticket items, Town Attorney Laura Finch said. 

The discussion turned to the need for implementation of fire fees for the First Due Area.

“Please understand what we’re asking,” Barlow said. “We had very little opposition to the increased fire fee in town, but eighty-two percent of our calls are out of town and you (town council) have the authority to implement this First Due Area fee, and that’s what we’re asking for.

“We have two trucks down there, at $500,000 a piece, that need to be replaced. The town was flooded in 1985 and the federal government stepped in and bought all this new equipment and made the fire department what it is today, but there was never a plan in place for capital expenses down the road, so we’re in a bind right now because getting parts for maintenance on those vehicles is getting out of hand.

“We’ve got a tanker engine that needs to be replaced today. We have a breather system that needs replaced tomorrow. We really need your support on this First Due Area fee.”

Councilmember Mark Strauss agreed.

“We need to do it,” he said. “The town has to be the one to do that.”

Barlow talked about the work that was done by the fire department and the town, which will reduce fire insurance premiums for many homeowners, and he talked about the number of trained personnel on the department, including an unusually high number of paramedics.

“Our goal, down the road, is to have 24-hour coverage with at least two people here or at the 911 property at all times, so that when the tones drop, the first engine or the first bus (ambulance) is out the door within a matter of getting up and putting their shoes on,” Barlow said.

“We are not looking at a paid department, but a paid call area.

“We have a ton of training downstairs and we do an awesome job. I’ve been here thirty-five years, and I’m saying we’ve got a great thing going, but we need everybody that we provide service to to support us.

“You guys (council) have that authority.”

The council will address issues pertaining to the implementation of the First Due Area fire fee in the new year.

Also on Monday night’s agenda was a presentation by Family Resource Network director Laura Young.

Young presented a proposal to council with regard to a grant which would be used to erect a covered structure for the town’s farmers market. The multi-use facility could also be used for events surrounding the Greenbrier River Race, the RoadKill Cook-off as well as being available to  rent for family reunions, etc.

The FRN is non-profit, so Young asked the town to sign onto the grant application, thereby, if the grant is awarded, the town would allow the facility to be built on town property, would hire a contractor and would take on any costs associated with maintaining it.

Grant application deadline is December 30, and, if awarded, the project deadline date for completion would be June 30, 2017.

The council also approved a $500 donation to Allegheny Mountain Radio, noting its importance to the county.

Council meets the first Monday of each month at 7 p.m. in council chambers on the second floor of the Municipal building.

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