County commission hears proposal on fire protection
John Hicks FCT Staff Writer
On Monday, Russellville Fire Chief Joe Mansell asked the Franklin County Commission to consider splitting the cost of fire protection for residents living outside the city limits.
"Fire protection is supposed to end outside the city limits on the last day of the month, unless we can come up with a solution," Mansell said.
The Russellville city council recently rescinded a sales tax on county businesses, and decided to end fire protection in the police jurisdiction on Sept. 30 unless a way could be found to pay for it.
Mansell said that the city incurs losses when homeowners lack insurance to cover the bill for services the fire department provides.
"When we go out on a fire and submit a bill, if the insurance pays for it, that's the end of it," Mansell said. "If the insurance doesn't pay, then we're proposing the city and the county split the costs."
Mansell, who was instructed by the Russellville city council to come up with alternatives for solving the problem, said that splitting the cost was just one option to consider.
"We're not talking about lots of money," Mansell said. "The most it could be is $15,000, and the least it could be is $1,500."
County attorney Roger Bedford advised Probate Judge Mike Green that the commission had no legal obligation to help defray firefighting costs in the city's police jurisdiction.
"If you're going to do it for Russellville, you're going to have to do it for every municipality, in my opinion," Bedford said. "You have the right to do it, if you want to. But if you do it for one, you're going to have to do it for all."
Bedford noted that budgeting for the proposal would be difficult.
"Nobody can tell you how many fires there are going to be," Bedford said. "Nobody can predict that."
Mansell, who lives in the police jurisdiction, said there are more than 2,000 homes that will be affected by the outcome of the issue.
"I'm here because I want to come up with a solution," Mansell said. "I don't care what I pay for insurance. I just don't want to lose my fire coverage. If my house is on fire, and my kids are trapped, I want somebody to come."
Mansell said that the department would continue to provide fire protection to the area until he was told to stop. In 2005, the City of Russellville lost approximately $4,000 in unrecovered costs.
Mansell also suggested the commission could put a cap on the amount it budgeted for fire costs.
The commission tabled the matter pending its upcoming budget review.
Also on Monday, the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the commission honored retiring Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs district manager Lucious Richardson.
Richardson was honored with a resolution from the commission, and one from the Alabama Senate that was read by Sen. Roger Bedford.
Richardson also received the State of Alabama Distinguished Service Medal from ADVA commissioner W. Clyde Marsh.
"Five years ago, I was crossing the Tennessee River, going to one of our offices, when I heard the news," Richardson said, recalling Sept. 11, 2001. "A lot of things have taken place since then. If we don't stand steadfast and support our democracy, what is the alternative? We need to be steadfast, resolved and committed to our country."
Richardson also praised the commission and Bedford for their support of veterans.
In other business, the commission: