Shelby County fire fees could rise - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Shelby County fire fees could rise

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Shelby County, Tn -

Your fire fees could increase if leaders in Shelby County don't take action. Annexation in key areas means fewer residents in the county and the loss of fire fees. Those dollars are essential to operating the County's Fire Department.

Some leaders met Tuesday at an ad-hoc committee meeting designed to find a solution. County Commissioner Wyatt Bunker says future annexation will reduce the amount of fire fees collected, by more than $6-million in the next several years. That's a large chunk out of their $19-million budget. The meeting was preliminary, but an attempt to be proactive.

The committee is charged with making a recommendation to increase fire fees or determine other alternatives for fire service delivery.

"I think the people are willing to pay for their safety but there comes a point, where does it weigh out, the price of gas is going up, the price of milk going up, now the price of fire fees going up too," said Fire Union member Danny Young.

While Arlington, Millington, and Lakeland each operate fire departments, they use the County's services too.

Some are in favor of Millington, Arlington and Lakeland forming their own fire district. But the devil is in the details, like which municipality would be responsible for their employees and who would pay their salary.

Most of the municipal leaders in attendance say they're open to most options, with the exception of the city of Memphis. 

"We don't need to be in a position where a union can call a strike and us be without service," said Arlington Town Supt. Ed Haley.

County Commissioner Terry Roland said, "I definitely walked out of there with the assumption, the confidence that they don't want the Commission in charge. They want autonomy. They definitely don't want to merge with Memphis."

Bunker says the consolidation process could take a few years and possible legislation in Nashville.   

Until their next meeting, Bunker asked the municipal leaders to meet with their attorneys.

The committee's next meeting is set for April 16. After they make their recommendation, they'll pass it on to the administration.     

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