Editor’s note: This is the second in an ongoing series of articles that will be published about the sales tax resolution for the Nov. 6 general election ballot.
For fire departments across Stephens County, the last couple of years have put a lot of pressure and stress on their brush trucks, structure gear and the rest of the equipment they use to ensure the safety of its residents.
The goal of the proposed .15 percent sales tax resolution for area fire departments will be providing assistance on maintaining their fire stations, equipment and required training need for operating the fire stations.
“It will benefit all of the fire departments tremendously,” Empire Fire Chief Randall Allen said. “We’ll be able to keep our protective equipment up-to-date and get new equipment as it is needed.”
Gary Curtis, Public Information Officer for the Stephens County Fire Task Force, said fire departments are facing an income shortfall as resources such as grants are becoming lower and lower in the amounts of funds offered.
Curtis said an rough estimate of the amount that could be generated by the tax is approximately $40,000 for each of the 12 county fire departments.
“The rural fire departments will probably see the most benefit from this,” Curtis said. “Doyle is our furthest station out there, Bray is out there on State Highway 29, Central High has a little tax base but they need the help too. Those will be the ones struggling the most.”
Duncan Interim Fire Chief Dayton Burnside said the DFD is looking at upgrades just like the other fire departments should the resolution pass.
“We’re upgrading our current fleet and possibly replacing one of our brush trucks and looking at upgrading our training facilities to incorporate more modern techniques and items to train on,” Burnside said. “That’ll be our focus as far as station enhancements and fire gear and training. Pretty much everything except salaries.”
Burnside hopes if the resolution passes, the DFD have considered working towards building a training facility in the county. Currently, there is no burn building or search and rescue building or a pump test facility in Stephens County for training of area firefighters.
“Everyone has been doing a lot more with less and between the fuel cost and operating costs rising, especially for the volunteer fire departments,” Burnside said. “You pay for fuel and operations and make one or two maintenance repairs and your budget is wiped out.”
For the Central High Volunteer Fire Department, Fire Chief Dan Eberhart said the proposed resolution will help them upgrade equipment and cited their SCBA’s or self contained breathing apparatuses as an example.
“A lot of our SCBA’s are old and outdated, we would like to get newer stuff,” Eberhart said. “We’ll have more money to make improvements like that.
Allen said the EVFD fundraiser later this month will focus on building a new truck but the resolution will help them replace their structure gear as they will need to be replaced by their expiration date in two years.
“We appreciate our community and county for the support,” Allen said. “I think they’ll be able to see a difference in the equipment we use, it’ll take a couple of years to notice big changes. We’ll be doing things in sections.”