Wappapello wants to try fire tax again

Sunday, June 16, 2002

WAPPAPELLO, Mo. -- This November, Wappapello Volunteer Fire Department Board president Claude Gore Jr. wants Wayne County voters to decide the issue of whether the fire district should be financed by tax dollars rather than by a voluntary tag-purchasing system.

But before the issue can appear on the ballot, County Clerk Alan Lutes wants board members to pay up for a special election held last February in which voters narrowly turned down the same request.

A letter from Lutes to the Wappapello Fire Protection District received by Gore Wednesday estimates the cost to the board for having the issue placed on the fall ballot at about $2,000. The letter includes a reminder from Lutes concerning the unpaid debt -- about $2,300 -- the district still owes for the special election, a vote the district lost by seven votes.

The board is hoping that voters will reconsider the issue of changing financing for the 30-member volunteer fire department from a community subscription method to one in which property owners bear the cost. Currently, approximately 700 community residents pay a $30 annual fee to purchase a tag offering them fire protection from the district.

State law requires that fire departments respond to emergencies occurring within their district whether the person needing aid has bought a fire tag or not. According to Gore, those who have previously chosen to not purchase a tag end up paying a far greater price in the long run. "Non-subscribing" residents or businesses who use the services of the firefighters are billed by the district at a rate of $100 "for showing up" and an additional $500 per hour while units are on the scene.

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