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The Taylor County Fire Department has a new $25,000 grant available to help educate the public about fire protection. It may take every penny of it, too.
In a totally unscientific survey of newspaper employees, 70 percent were not aware that County residents could pay voluntary annual fire dues.
According to information provided by fire officials at a recent Fiscal Court meeting, only $90,000 of a potential $365,000 in annual dues is presently collected (see story in today's paper). Those who own property outside the City limits can pay a $30-a-year fee and receive discounted fire runs. The collection percentage could certainly be improved by better education, but it could also be improved by a strategy that makes it easier for people to pay.
Whether that's a note in a utility bill or some other form of notification by the fire department, anything could help educate the public that voluntary dues are not only available but payable. But more than that, the public needs to know how that money will be spent.
At the most recent Court meeting, fire substations were mentioned as a necessary progression in the ability of volunteers to get to fires on a timely basis.
If you're only collecting 24 percent of the available money from voluntary dues, there's a chance the fire department is missing out on significant financial assistance. In the case of voluntary dues, it's unrealistic to think that 100 percent of property owners would agree with the premise of paying a fee. But with a little education it's not inconceivable that the collection of voluntary dues could be doubled.
Over time, that would make a big difference, but certainly would not generate the necessary funds to build substations - a project that is in the talking stages.
Fire protection isn't something that we think about every day. But it would be a top-of-the-list topic if we were ever unfortunate enough to have a fire and it took an extended length of time for volunteer firefighters to respond. Time is at a premium when something catches on fire. And without significant personal water resources and an ability to broadcast that resource, it's unlikely that anyone could totally protect themselves.
The hope is that no one outside the City would be any further away from a fire substation than five miles.
But would a $30 annual fee help create additional piece of mind?
That's what the fire department needs to do when it goes about educating the public.
Voluntary fees won't pay for construction and equipment for substations, but it's a start. The same education about fees could be used to sell the idea of substations.
Someone said education makes people easier to lead. Maybe we should try that.