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Local News

July 9, 2013

Sales tax approval pays off for firefighters, nutrition centers

DUNCAN — A sales tax increase approved by voters in Stephens County last year brought in more than $83,000 for fire departments and senior nutrition centers in the first month it was collected.

The additional 0.15 percent sales tax took effect April 1 and netted $83,658 for that month, the Board of Stephens County Commissioners was told Monday. Receipts for sales taxes lag a couple of months behind their actual collection.Voters in Stephens County overwhelmingly approved the addition 0.15 percent sales tax to benefit the 12 fire departments - most of them all-volunteer - and five centers that provide meals for senior citizens.

“I think April is probably an average month so if we could get that amount every month we would be tickled to death,” said County Commissioner Lonnie Estes, who also is a volunteer fireman for Empire.

The added sales tax was approved at a time when state and federal grant money for the fire departments and centers has been declining.

The departments can use the money for expenses other than salaries. Most of the money is expected to be spent on equipment and vehicles.

The money for the departments is to be divided equally, so for April, each will receive $6,434.

The departments are Bray, Central High, Comanche, Corum, Doyle, Duncan, Empire, Loco, Marlow, Meridian, Oakridge and Velma.

The Duncan Fire Department pays its firefighters and Marlow and Velma are a combination of paid and volunteer firefighters, while the other nine are volunteer only.

The senior nutrition centers are sharing one-13th of the money, to be divided monthly depending on how many meals are provided. Two of the centers are in Duncan and there is one each in Comanche, Marlow and Velma.

County Commissioner Dee Bowen said several nutrition centers in Oklahoma have been forced to shut down, so the extra money for the existing ones is welcome.

“This will help them stay open,” he said. “It’s not just a place to eat, it’s the fellowship they get.”

Dan Eberhart, chief of the Central High Volunteer Fire Department, said the extra money would help.

“We are doing good but we do have trucks that are just wearing out from hard use and without some kind of grant or something we would be unable to repose them,” he said.

He said there are no plans to spend the extra cash immediately.

“We are going to let it build up,” Eberhart said. “We have a couple of trucks we really need to upgrade so we’re going to let it accumulate. We may not even spend it for a year.”

In other business, commissioners:

n Accepted two bids for rural E911 addressing/GIS mapping database and services. Spatial Data Research Inc. of Lawrence, Kan. has a bid for $94,500 and GeoComm of St. Cloud, Minn. bid $272,571. Action on the bids was tabled until next meeting.

n Approved a labor bid of $25,680 for Elmer Skeen Fencing in Duncan to install fences at the Stephens County Fair & Expo Center.

n Approved $18,944 to WW Paul Scales for new hog and sheep panels at the Expo Center.  

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