MARSHALL CO., Ala. (WHNT) — Volunteer fire departments in Marshall County are starting to take the steps required to get more funding, as stipulated by a bill passed last year by the state legislature.
House Bill 582 sets the framework to allow each volunteer fire department to form fire districts, which is the area the departments already cover. “Once that district is formed, approved by the County Commission, we’re allowed to get a petition from the voters in that area,” Georgia Mountain Volunteer Fire Department Chairman Richard Lawson says.
Each volunteer fire department would petition the voters in each district to determine if they’d agree to pay an extra five dollars each month. Residents will vote on it if the departments get enough names. “As far as the County Commission, once they request to set up a fire district, we’ll review the application, we’ll make sure they’ve got all the correct paperwork in, and we’ll say yes, you are a fire district, ” Commission Chair James Hutcheson says.
There are roughly 20 volunteer fire departments in the county. That’s substantially more than paid departments.
The volunteer fire departments are funded through a percentage of tobacco taxes, and grants. Lawson says each volunteer fire department got less than 13 thousand dollars in funding last year. “Our expenditures last year were approximately 42 thousand dollars,” Lawson says.
Lawson says the rest of that money is made up through fundraising. He says the volunteer firefighters at his station spend more time trying to make up funds to run it than training, so the public’s approval on this plan is essential.
If approved Lawson says those fees will raise the department’s income about five or six times.