CG fee gets first reading

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

The Coal Grove village council is considering imposing a new fire fee on its businesses and residents, though some feel the plan may be too much, too soon.

The fee would be put in place to buy a new truck for the village. Currently, the Coal Grove Fire Department has two pump trucks at its disposal, one that’s 20 years old, and one that’s been in service for 27 years.

The 1979 model is plagued with several problems, but the main one is that the truck can’t spray water with the pressure necessary to fight fires properly.

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At their meeting last week, the council gave first reading to a fire fee that would charge $4 per month for residents and $8 for businesses. By fire chief Gary Sherman’s estimates, that should generate around $44,000, enough to make a yearly payment on a truck.

“Our village hasn’t got any money, we operate on $12,000 to $15,000 a year, that’s unheard of,” Sherman has said. “We just barely squeak by on our utility bills, repairs that pop up, this and that. There’s just no way they can afford to go out and buy a fire truck with the money they currently have.”

Unfortunately, the pump isn’t the only issue. In fact, Sherman said that he has been told that it would cost more to repair the truck’s myriad problems than to buy a completely new truck.

The chief has said that the malfunctioning truck could cause an increase in homeowner’s insurance if steps are not taken to repair it.

But some in the village, such as councilman Aaron Stewart, are skeptical about the need for the fee.

“If I needed a car right now, I’d go out and buy a used car for a couple of thousand dollars,” Stewart said. “If I wanted a car, I could go out and buy a Lamborghini, we’re saying that we need a car, not want but need one, we don’t really have the money for it so we’re going to put it on taxpayers, and we’re going to go out and buy the Cadillac of fire trucks. That just doesn’t work for me.”

Stewart said that he’d like the village to consider other options, like selling property the village owns, or maybe purchasing a cheaper truck than the one that was currently being considered.

But if the costs had to be taken to the Coal Grove residents, he said he didn’t think the decision should be in the hands of the council alone.

“If you’re going to do something like that, it’s the same as a tax levy, let’s put it on the ballot,” Stewart said. “That’s a tax. You can call it a fee, or whatever you want, but it’s a tax.”

For now, the chief is taking a wait-and-see attitude on the fee.

“It’s got two readings to go, so I guess it could go either way,” Sherman said.

The next reading of the ordinance is scheduled for the May 4 meeting of the council at 6:30 p.m. at the village hall.