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Raising district fire dues discussed in Highland

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Announcements of new equipment for the city's fire department, good news on the city park and an appointment to the city's code enforcement position were among the topics of Highland's City Council meeting Feb. 14.

Mayor Richard Smith told council the city received a new 2011 Dodge Charger police vehicle. Office Bryan Buchanan will be driving the new car, which replaced a Crown Victoria. The old car will be used for code enforcement as needed.

Smith also announced the city has received a military surplus Hummer at a cost of $256 for fees associated with its transfer from Camp Robinson in Little Rock. The police department also received several rifles and handguns from the same state program.

(Photo)
Highland Police officers Kyle Crawford, Mayor Richard Smith, Chief Jeremy Stevens and Officer Bryan Buchanan are proud of the new Hummer and patrol car the city recently received through a grant written by Stevens through the Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The Hummer was made available through the Law Enforcement Support Office.
Applications to fill the city's vacant fire chief position were taken through Feb. 15. The city has three applicants. The mayor explained he would not participate in the first review of the applications because he knew the applicants.

Mary Jo Clark gave council an update on the city park. After a Jan. 27 groundbreaking, she said the underbrush has been cleared. Four bids were accepted for the concrete work at the park. Ronald Watson came in with the lowest bid. His bid was $9,654. Clark explained to council there was enough funds left in the Hidden Valley Property Owners account to cover the concrete, with no cost to the city.

Robert Monroe and Jay Dark will both fill the vacated code enforcement position. The vacancy came after former fire chief Johnny Rickman submitted his resignation. Rickman also served as code enforcement officer.

Interim fire chief Kal Dienst spoke to council about the possibility of establishing a method to collect fire dues for the city. This is something that has been discussed in the past.

Dienst explained that, last fall, the department applied for a master fire plan for the department and supplied all the required information to the Rural Fire Protection System.

It has returned a plan detailing the city's need for its fire department. Dienst explained dues would help finance department improvements. The Rural Fire Protection System also provides financing for departments to assist them in improvements such as water systems. Officials with the system suggested the fire department establish some type of funding to pay for such things as improvements in water pressure.

The department was instantly awarded $1,500 to purchase some much needed water supply valves.

Dienst also explained the department would have access to a free mailing service which would mail notices and reminders to customers to pay their fire dues.

He explained he has a map of the city's fire district and is currently working to get an updated version. This service is free to the department.

Dienst told council there are between 180 and 200 properties the Highland Fire Department services which lie outside the city limits. The city can not charge fire dues for in city residents since the city's millage pays for fire protection for those residents.

Council asked if there was a recommendation made by the rural fire protection on how much to charge. The price is currently $25 for surrounding cities, many pay the fee on their property taxes. Dienst said these fees have remained the same for many years. He favors a higher single fee, since $25 will not even cover the fuel expense for the fire trucks. The cost of the proposed dues is yet to be established.

The acting chief also explained the fees are something that are collected can be included in the annual budget.

He said it is a state law that if a city is not paying fire dues, they can not get a lower ISO rating, something that allows residents to have more economical fire insurance prices.

The issue will be revisited at a future meeting.

Next meeting

The Highland City Council meets the second Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. at Highland City Hall. The public is always welcome to attend.



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