By Joe Lewis - Staff Writer
OCT. 2, 2013 —
A consistent thread during Thursday night’s open forum was the lack of adequate funding for the Olive Hill Fire Department.
Current OHFD budget estimates indicate that it needs $69,820 in revenue to operate this year, but the cash-strapped City of Olive Hill only allocated $54,320 to the department in the recently approved annual budget.
It is at least the third consecutive year that the fire department’s budget has been cut.
Asst. Chief Jeremy Rodgers outline the options for increasing revenue that OHFD can undertake.
“Basically we can either institute a subscription-based service where people outside the city would have to pay an annual fee for fire service, or we can establish our own taxing district,” said Rodgers.
“The problem with a taxing district is that it requires the approval of the Fiscal Court, which has been difficult to obtain.”
“In the past I’ve been assured privately by certain magistrates that they would support us, but when we get to the Fiscal Court meetings they throw us under the bus,” Rodgers added.
With the current budget shortfall, Mayor Kenny Fankell recently commented that he may be forced to limit fire services to within city limits.
This potential scenario does not sit well with the volunteer members of the OHFD, most of which reside outside the city limits.
“Why would we come and volunteer our time here in the city if we can’t even protect our own homes? If we end up being restricted to only working inside the city, I’m done,” said Rodgers.
“When these town flooded, these guys came as volunteers, with no pay, to help clean up the streets. I was right there with them,” said Council member Matt Kiser.
“These guys worked for 36 hours straight before any of them were cut loose for even an hour’s sleep,” said Rodgers.
Fankell indicated that recent turnover in the Fiscal court might create an opportunity to revisit the issue of a taxing district for the fire department.
“I spoke to my magistrate, which is Brandon (Burton), about this issue and he said he would definitely consider it,” said Fankell.
Many in the audience also indicated they would attend a Fiscal Court meeting in order to show support for OHFD’s effort to establish a new taxing district.
Fiscal Court will next meet on Tuesday, Oct. 15, but as of yet there is no mention of such a measure on the session’s agenda.
Joe Lewis can be reached at email@example.com or by telephone at 286-4201.