Fire Assessment Fee Controversy Continues in Walton - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Fire Assessment Fee Controversy Continues in Walton

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Resident discussion continues in Walton County over proposed changes to the current fire assessment fee.

Commissioners want to raise the fee by 75 dollars a year per residence and charge per vacant land parcel in unincorporated Walton County for all fire services that total over 4 million dollars.

It was a standing room only crowd Tuesday afternoon as, one by one, residents approached the commissioners to voice their concerns.

The meeting was a continuation of last week's public hearing on the same issue.

A county ordered fire assessment study conducted in may proposes recommended the fee increase to 379 dollars in order to stand on it's own to fund fire services.

The County wants to avoid this for now.

Currently, the fee is proposed to go from 25 to 95 dollars a year per residential dwelling. The county said that fee increases are possible in subsequent years should this be voted in.

Tuesday, residents were hoping for a board vote on the issue, offering potential solutions to the hotly debated issue.

"I think this commission needs to look at saving the taxpayers money, saving the money back for a rainy day, and not gauge into people of this county," said one resident.

"Rather than raise the rates on anybody, perhaps take a look at what the subsidy per capita has been and average it out and simply offer that same dollar amount dollar figure subsidy to South Walton Fire and this is a moot point," said another.

Commissioner Kenneth Pridgen suggested a one cent sales tax to pay for the needs, saying that would be fair for everyone.

Commissioner Sara Comander said the residents in south Walton already pay for their fire service. She said the money collected south of the bay could be used to lower their fire assessment or for other needs.

Commissioner Bill Chapman suggested raising the fee to $50 and adjusting the commercial

A vote never came.

Ultimately the issue was continued by Commissioner Sara Comander, a vote will occur next Tuesday at 9am at the regularly scheduled commission meeting in DeFuniak Springs.

You can find a copy of the Fire Assessment Study Here:

http://www.co.walton.fl.us/Index.aspx?NID=1032