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No county fire fee in counties around Pocahontas

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Marlinton Fire Department Safety Officer Coy Beverage and Assistant Chief J.P. Duncan display a set of firefighter air packs. The department’s air packs average 10 years in service and must be replaced after 15 years, at a cost of $7,000 per unit. Two of the department’s fire trucks are nearing 30 years in service, when the recommended service life is 20 years. Aging equipment and high replacement costs are one reason local firefighters are advocating for a county fire fee.

Citing rising equipment, training and maintenance costs, Pocahontas County firefighters have started a campaign to institute a county-wide fire fee. Their proposal is to levy a $60 fee on all residential properties and a $100 fee on all business properties. The firefighters, led by Marlinton Fire Chief Herb Barlow and Bartow-Frank-Durbin Fire Chief Kenneth “Buster” Varner, are in the process of obtaining signatures on a petition to present to the Pocahontas County Commission, which is the approval authority for a county fire fee.

None of the counties surrounding Pocahontas County, including Greenbrier, Nicholas, Webster, Randolph and Pendleton counties, currently have a county fire fee in place. However, firefighters in Randolph County are currently collecting signatures, like their Pocahontas County counterparts, to institute a county fire fee. Although none of the surrounding counties have a fire fee in place, some municipalities in those counties charge a municipal fire fee.

In Nicholas County, the City of Summersville has a mandatory fire fee, but the City of Richwood does not. Summersville charges a residential fee of $27.50 per year, with a $2.50 homestead exemption discount. Summersville’s business fire fee is based on square footage. Businesses with zero to 2,500 square feet pay a fire fee of $55 per year, and businesses with 2,501 to 7,500 square feet pay a fee of $165 per year.

Webster County has no county fire fee, but the Town of Webster Springs charges a fee of $30 per year.

In Greenbrier County, neither the county nor the City of Lewisburg have a mandatory fire fee. The City of Lewisburg Fire Department sends out requests for contributions every year.

In Randolph County, the City of Elkins currently charges a fire fee that is based on square footage for both residential and commercial properties. However, a new ordinance will take effect on July 1 that implements a flat fee of $100 per year on residential properties, and a fee of five cents per square foot on business properties. The fees will be levied on residences and businesses in the response area of the city’s two fire departments, which includes areas outside city limits.

Randolph County firefighters began a campaign last summer to gain approval for a county fire fee of $100 to $120 per year on residential properties and a commercial fee based on square footage. As in Pocahontas County, Randolph County firefighters are in the process of obtaining a necessary number of petition signatures, representing 10 percent of registered voters in the county.

Using information from the Pocahontas County Assessor’s Office, The Pocahontas Times estimated that the proposed fire fee in Pocahontas County would generate approximately $300,000 per year for the county’s six fire departments.

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