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Commissioners discuss fire fees, SPLOST

By Dwain Penn Although the Ides of March is usually associated with misfortune and bad news, it certainly wasn’t the case at the March 15 workshop of county commissioners to discuss the Pike County fire fee structure and a possible SPLOST referendum for November. County attorney Rob Morton presented the commissioners with an updated draft of fire fees for approval. Most changes dealt with typographical errors and modifying specific legal terms. Exemptions to fire fees, approved last fall, will continue to be cemeteries and property owned by the county. Commissioner Parrish Swift wanted to expand that to include the school board. After Morton mentioned the flat fee for agribusiness and commercial would remain at $150, Commissioner Tommy Powers contested the recommendation. The fire fees will be reviewed annually by the board of commissioners and a separate account will be established for the funds. Parcels of land that is an acre or less with no improvements can be exempt from the fee, but exemption must be applied for by the owner and approved by the board. Swift hopes those who qualify for the exemption will apply for it. The current fee structure will raise $508,200 to cover the fire department’s annual budget of $466,512 as of 2009. The fee structure will be ready for the first reading at the next commissioners meeting. After discussing the proposal for a new SPLOST referendum in November, it was decided to seek a six-year SPLOST for the construction of a new judicial center with residual funds being used for complete restoration of the courthouse. ”I’m not against a SPLOST,” said Powers. “It’s easy to sit and vote yes or no, but the courthouse is an important thing. If a two-year SPLOST doesn’t cover the cost, taxpayers will have to make up the difference.”

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