Even though it was met with some opposition, Elkins City Council passed the second reading Thursday of an ordinance that will increase fire fees by 50 percent over the next three years. Councilman Mark Scott, 3rd Ward, said the city needs to be more progressive with the fee and apply it to people outside the city, but in the Elkins Fire Department's primary response area.
"I know it would be a bold step for this council to assess the fee to the primary service area," Scott said. "I would like to see us take a bold step."
Scott said he would like to see the city follow the city of Bridgeport's lead and pass a measure that would assess fire fees to everyone inside the fire department's primary service area. City Attorney Gerry Roberts said the ordinance has not yet been taken to court.
Councilman Bob Woolwine, 1st Ward, made the motion to pass the fire fee ordinance and Councilman Joe Sabatino, 5th Ward, seconded.
The ordinance will raise fire fee assessment from 0.325 cents per square foot to 0.487 cents per square foot once fully implemented.
The 50 percent increase will be spread over three years with the first increase being 20 percent, while the second and third phase will both be 15 percent.
Scott said he has received several complaints from residents stating it is not fair they have to pay an increased rate when there are people who receive the same services without paying any fee.
"I have had some of the same comments," Councilman Charles Kinnison, 1st Ward, said.
Councilman Tom Hensil, 2nd Ward, said even if the city explores the possibility of assessing the fee to people outside the city, the fee increase is still needed.
"We are bleeding the general fund dry," he said. "We need this increase."
Scott said the city is considering raising the fee on residents when people outside the city are receiving the same service without paying anything.
Councilman Carman Metheny, 3rd Ward, said he would like to see the city consider assessing the fee outside the city as soon as Bridgeport's ordinance is challenged in court.
"You are the chair of rules and ordinance," Hensil said to Scott.
"Write it up and I guarantee it will pass."
Roberts said before the ordinance passes a third and final reading a public hearing will be conducted during the Feb. 2 council meeting.
Councilman Van Broughton, 2nd Ward, said he has talked to several people who live in Glenmore, Crystal Springs and Highland Park who said they would buy a fire service contract so they can receive the same fire service as residents inside the city. Elkins Mayor Duke Talbott said there is a difference in the fees that are charged with a contract and the regular fire fee.
"I would like the city attorney to look into it," he said.
Elkins Fire Department Chief Tom Meader said when the city responds to a emergency call outside the city, it can only respond with two trucks and up to 12 men, unless another department calls for aide.
He said if a resident or a business would purchase a contract, then the department could respond with everything they do within the city.
The ordinance passed the second reading with only Scott voting against the measure.
The final reading of the ordinance will be considered during the next council meeting at 7 p.m. on Feb. 2 in council chambers.
Contact Anthony Gaynor by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.