The Springfield City Council discussed an increase in user fees with Fire Chief Edwin Rahn on Tuesday.
The best way to show that we’re serious would be to raise the rates in the city first, Rahn said.
Councilman Kenny Usher said that by raising the rates in the city first, it put those inside the city limits in the position of paying more for the service than those who areoutside the city limits but still in the service delivery area of the fire department.
“If you live in the city, you get a better rate because you live on the water system,” Rahn said. “You are at an advantage sitting inside the city. It’s only going to get better. Right now we’re rated at a 6/9. If you’re not within 1,000 of an approved system water source, you’re paying a 9.”
Rahn said he would like to improve the system and have the review done. He said when that happens the city’s ISO rating would go down to a 5, and he is working to get the rating down to a 4.
“You talk about saving people the possibility of $100 or more a year to spend $15 or so a year,” he said.
Rahn said he had been approached by other fire chiefs in the county. A similar proposal in the county was turned down last year.
In his budget proposal Rahn suggested increasing the user rate from $35 to $50 for residences and from $50 to $100 for businesses. He said they could prevent an increase for residents over 65 who own a home and live in it from the raise.
Rahn told the council that the fire chief in Guyton had prepared a letter and had it approved, and he believes Rincon will do the same.
“What I would like to ask for tonight is to follow suit and draft a letter from the city and the department, and ask for them to bring back in front of the commission and see if they can get a raise,” he said.
Usher said that Rahn had looked at some of the numbers if a raise was introduced.
“I think if the county commission sees unity from the cities on this, it will give them the cover they need,” he said.
Rahn said the increase would allow the department to purchase items it can’t right now.
“We would be able to do a lot of things we can’t even dream about now,” he said. “We’re wanting to get at least one thermal camera — $10,000. We need to upgrade to large diameter hoses. We’re the only department in the county that’s not on a large diameter hose that gets water to the truck faster. That’s going to cost $4,000 to $5,000 a truck. Simple things like automatic electronic deliberators, they’re coming down but they’re still expensive.”
Rahn also commended the job Effingham County Fire and Rescue Chief Val Ashcraft has done in lowering ISO rates throughout the county.
“There’s a lot of people in this county who are paying for a class 4 fire department right now when they used to be paying for a class 9,” he said. “Some people were paying for a class 10 fire department, which means there is none. Mr. Ashcraft has done a good job of positioning stations around the county to give people protection where they haven’t had it before, and he’s done a good job of lowering his ISO ratings, something that we want to do.”
Councilman Max Neidlinger said he will support Rahn as long as the senior citizens are not affected by the increase.
“I’ll fight for the senior citizens not to be included in the increase,” Rahn said.
Mayor Barton Alderman told Rahn to draft a letter for the county and bring it back for council approval.