By Leah Deitz
White Sulphur Springs City Council met on Monday, June 8, and passed Ordinance 761, which allows them to implement a fire fee to property owners outside of city limits. The ordinance passed on the first reading with little discussion from council. However, local resident Sam Cole asked council how they intended to enforce the ordinance with citizens outside of the city. There will be two additional readings of the ordinance before it goes into effect.
The fire fee issue was sparked by a recent decision from the Lewisburg City Council to adopt a similar ordinance. Lewisburg approved two readings of an ordinance to initiate a rural fire service fee within the Lewisburg Fire Department’s First Due Area. A final reading will be held on Tuesday, June 16.
According to Title 87 Legislative Rules for the State Fire Commission, First Due Area means a fire protection district for which the Commission has assigned primary responsibility to a local fire department to provide fire protection and rescue services. No one was available at press time to give a statement regarding the boundaries of the First Due Area in the White Sulphur Area. An article in the Register-Herald reported that it would encompass a 110 square mile radius, including a 10-mile stretch of Interstate 64 running all the way to the Virginia line.
Precedence for this issue was set earlier this year when the city of Bridgeport took their case for expanded fire fees to the West Virginia Supreme Court. Their ordinance allowed the city of Bridgeport to charge a fire fee to property owners who would be serviced by the city’s volunteer fire department outside of city limits. Properties that fall under the jurisdiction of other fire departments in the Bridgeport area would not be billable.
Cole’s concerns stemmed from the fact that it would be difficult for the city to bill people who do not live in the municipality. In addition, he asked about enforcement of the regulation.
“We will bill the people outside of city limits according to our billing process,” Mayor Lloyd Haynes said. Haynes went on to explain that the fire fee is necessary to support the volunteer driven fire departments, which are responsible for properties outside city limits.
In other city news, the meeting marked the last city council session for Councilwoman Lynn Swann. Swann’s term ended and she did not seek re-election. White Sulphur Springs held their municipal election on Tuesday, June 9. Canvassing will be held on Monday, June 15, at 10 a.m.