By Peggy Mackenzie
With a solid body of citizens present at city hall Tuesday evening, ready to comment on Lewisburg’s revised fire service fee, Mayor John Manchester announced a second tabling of the proposed ordinance for further discussion until a special meeting next month. That meeting will be on Tuesday, Aug. 11, at 7 p.m., following the finance meeting. The mayor said the reason for the tabling motion is to allow council and the finance committee to reevaluate the fire rate structures beyond those changes already made.
Although a majority of those present opted to withhold their comments until the next meeting, a few citizens offered opinions. Russ Seigle’s prepared statement covered a number of questions about the fire fee, ranging from insurance rates to the differences between wood buildings and concrete and steel buildings’ flammability to a recommendation to retain the current downtown fire station.
Marietta Lyle expressed confusion over the city’s budget and asked for an opportunity to discuss the budget with treasurer Susan Honaker.
Charlie Green pointed out the frequency of the word “reasonable,” used 14 times in the Supreme Court’s ruling when approving the Bridgeport fire service fee ordinance, which was the source of Lewisburg’s ordinance language.
“Reasonable is a very strong word that we need to look at concerning this fire fee,” he said.
The final speaker for the evening was volunteer firefighter Joe Byers, who lives in Lewisburg’s first due area. As a firefighter, he said he “has no problem with” paying what he called a reasonable annual fire service fee of $120, even while he estimated he pays around $1,000 more out of pocket annually to cover additional firefighter expenses.
During Fire Chief Wayne Pennington’s presentation of the monthly fire report, he presented a copy of a letter from an insurance company advising the department that “there is no coverage under this policy for” fire department service charge. This, he said, is what he gets from insurance companies 99 percent of the time when sending them invoices for services rendered.
Pennington also announced the arrival of the department’s new fire engine three weeks ago. Equipment is still being installed and the vehicle will be ready for service in mid August, Pennington said.
In other business:
The mayor announced two reappointments to boards and commissions: Ann Fort will remain for another term on the building commission and Jeri Via will retain her seat with the parks commission. Manchester said with the departure of public works director Mark Carver, the mayor will attend in his place at the Greenbrier County Public Service District #1 meetings until a suitable candidate is found.
Council member Mark Etten, reporting for the finance committee, stated that a $66,000 increase to the general budget has been recommended to council to provide the police department with a more competitive salary commensurate with other enforcement providers. Council approved the recommendation effective July 30.
Council member Beverly White said the public works committee is looking at adding “yield” signage along the L&R Trail as a safety feature at intersections. The request for the signage was a proposal that came from the parks commission. It will be passed on to the public safety committee for further consideration before finally receiving approval at city council, White said. Manchester added that there are other considerations and options the city is also looking at signage to slow traffic in the Court Street loop section of town.