Fulton County Quorum Court met March 24 for a special meeting to review the county's financial report.
Gary Phillips addressed the court with a proposed ordinance concerning the ambulance service and the fire department's half-cent sales tax.
All 11 Fulton County fire departments were represented by one or multiple members in attendance.
Before Phillips spoke, Barry Aldridge, chairperson for the Fulton County Hospital Board, stood up to explain to the court that the hospital board did not support an ordinance that would mandate the Fulton County fire departments to share their funds.
"I do think that there is an area for an amendment to be made, but our hospital board does not support what we have seen or (people) we have heard from as of yet," Aldridge explained. "The only thing that we see as far as an amendment for the fire department is once they get their allotment each month, if they end up with a surplus they should have the ability to make a contributory donation for another fire department or another emergency avenue like the ambulance service."
Aldridge said that although he is aware of the certain financial circumstances of the county due to the recent floods, the court should continue to work towards a future plan to keep the ambulance service alive.
Aldridge then received a round of applause from the members of the community in attendance.
Phillips began his speech by telling the court and the community that he was not for or against a particular department.
"I want to start out by saying that I'm not against the fire department, I'm for the fire department and their tax. I'm also for the hospital and the ambulance and their tax. But ultimately, I don't look at it as the fire department tax or the hospital tax. Basically it's our money. Taxpayers pay it in and the government spends it in the best possible way," Phillips said.
According to Phillips, the need for a change in current funding distribution is because in order to financially help the ambulance service, the court would have to implement a new tax and Phillips said he could not see that happening.
One problem with the current system, Phillips explained, is that some Fulton County fire departments are called out more frequently than others yet all departments receive an equal share of the tax money.
The proposal was a possible solution to this problem and was a way Phillips thought tax payers money could be utilized more efficiently.
Major changes in the original ordinance would be made in Phillips' proposal, one of which would make sure if a fire department was no longer operating, their share of the tax money would be dropped.
"(My proposal) also gives the quorum court the ability to redistribute half of the money for special needs," Phillips explained. "I'm not on the hospital board, I'm not on the quorum court, I'm not with the fire department, my only concern is as a taxpayer in this county who would like to see the money spent as wisely as possible."
Before the court made their final decision, multiple members of the community representing different fire departments commented on the proposal.
"Arkansas has set standards for this county. They're setting standards on these rural departments where we're going to have to be as compatible as anyone else is. To be able to keep up with those minimum standards in this county and across the state, we're going to have to be funded. We don't do this for the money, we do this for the people," one community member said.
"Yeah, (the fire departments) have money saved up, but they're trying to get enough money to where they can properly do their job. If you take this sales tax away from this department, you're going to be putting us back in the stone ages," another added.
At the end of the discussion Fulton County Judge Charles Willett made a motion to squash the ordinance and the court voted unanimously to do so.
In other business, the court appropriated $100,000 to the road department.
"We've spent over $60,000 on the flood in the last five days," Willett said.
After the court appropriated the money to the road department, the separate set account put aside for emergency situations, had a balance of $194,000.
Willett also said that the county has qualified for state funds to help fix the road damage but have not found out about federal funding just yet.
The meeting was adjourned directly following the fire department funding proposal.