Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

July 16, 2014

Open meetings to be held to discuss proposed fire fee increase

PRINCETON — Mercer County residents will soon have opportunities to voice their thoughts about proposed increases in county fire fees.

The Mercer County Commission approved Tuesday a revised listing of proposed fire service fees submitted by the Mercer County Fire Service Board. Volunteer fire departments have been urging an increase to help fund their operations.

“All we’re doing is accepting their proposals. That doesn’t mean we’re going to enact the fee,” said Commissioner Gene Buckner.

The proposed increases in fire service fees have been revised several times, the commissioners said during their regular monthly meeting at the Mercer County Courthouse.

“This is a revised form, and it does look better than the original,” Buckner said. “Even with this, we’re going to have open meetings for people in the county to come and express their opinions, and we’re going to listen to what the county has to say before we make a definite decision.”

The public hearings will be conducted in different locations and different times across Mercer County. Most of the venues will be fire stations.

“We’re going to have them at different times and try to get everyone in the county involved,” Buckner told members of the public attending Tuesday’s meeting. “And we do want to hear what the people in the county have to say about it. It’s not anything that’s going to be pushed down your throat at all. The fire departments we all agree need help. They’re strapped with state mandates they have to meet and there’s no money from the state, so something’s going to have to be done. To what extreme, even at this point, we don’t know.”

Under the proposed rates, a property owner with a home containing up to 999 square feet would pay $25 a year. Homes between 1,000 to 1,999 square feet would pay $30 a year. Homes with 4,000 square feet or more would pay $45 annually.

In commercial fees, business property with up to 2,000 square feet would pay $100 a year. Property with 16,001 or more square feet would pay a yearly fee of $600. The proposed rates are projected to raise $714,379 a year for nine volunteer fire departments.

Public hearings have not yet been scheduled, but they will be announced in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph and other local media when a schedule is completed, said Mike Vinciguerra, president of the Mercer County Commission.

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