During a special Marlinton Town Council meeting on April 21, Mayor Joe Smith reported that attorney Steve Hunter had rendered an opinion on expansion of the town’s fire fee to all of Marlinton Fire Department’s first due area.
“The opinion from our town attorney is that we cannot enact a fire service fee outside of our corporate limits,” said Smith. “Based on the issue that the town government does not provide the service because the fire department is a non-profit corporation and it’s not a part of the town.”
During the Council meeting on April 8, Marlinton Fire Department Chief Herb Barlow asked Council to act on increasing the fee to $60 per year and expanding the fee to include the first due area. The first due area includes a broad area from Cooktown to Slaty Fork in the west, and Minnehaha Springs to Pocahontas County High School in the east.
Municipalities which own fire equipment and operate fire departments are authorized by state law to impose a fire fee on their department’s first due area. Municipalities such as Marlinton, which do not own or operate the fire department, only have authority to impose the fire fee within corporate limits. Residents inside Marlinton corporate limits currently pay a fire fee of $25 per year.
Barlow said the department needs additional funding or the town will face a reduction of service.
“I don’t think it’s fair that everyone who receives services from our department do not have to pay their dues,” he said. “We need an increase in funding but it needs to come from everybody. The community needs to get involved and realize the importance of the service that we provide.”
Sam Felton discussed town ownership of the department.
“If the town did take over, as far as assessing the fee or paying the bills, that doesn’t mean the management of the fire company will change one iota,” he said.
“What bothers me about this, just as a citizen of the town, if we were talking about $60 in the first response area, are we going to be talking about $160 for just the citizens of the town?” Felton added. “That’s a significant increase.”
“I would like to stick with $60 a year,” said Barlow. “The reason that $60 sticks with me is – that’s $5 a month. I know we’re all on fixed incomes. Everybody here’s on fixed income. But it’s $5 a month and for what you get, you’re getting a certified department.”
Smith recommended that Council and Fire Department representatives work together to come up with options prior to the May 4 Council meeting. Recorder Robin Mutscheller and Councilmember Norris Long are Council’s liaisons with the Fire Department. The Mayor, the two liasons and senior fire officials were scheduled to meet on Monday evening to begin work on an ordinance amendment to increase the municipal fire fee and any other appropriate courses of action.
In other business, Town Council:
– Approved the levy, which was published in the April 2 edition of The Pocahontas Times, and;
– Approved the purchase of a terminal server for the town offices at a cost of $3,695.
The next regular meeting of Marlinton Town Council is scheduled for May 4 at 7 p.m.