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Fire service plan costs sparks debate
Commission Chairman John McIver
A heated debate flared up in the county commission recently concerning the future of Liberty’s fire protection services.
During this past week’s budget hearing, Eastern District Fire Chief Joe Martin contended a $60,000 master fire plan could help the county meet the needs of its growing community.
Martin proposed he draw up the plan, thereby saving the county thousands of dollars. He noted the extra money could be evenly distributed among the county’s fire stations.
Commissioner Kenny Fussell  spoke up, and expressed his concern about the cost of the plan.
Commissioner Marion Stevens agreed and said, “I don’t want to see $60,000 get thrown in the trashcan on a plan we’ll never implement.”
“I say we shouldn’t do it at all,” Fussell said.
Chairman John McIver, who supports the spending, said, “It’s a long-range plan. You take care of the critical part, but not everything. We need to hire a professional to do this work ... we want the ability to reduce the ISO (fire insurance rating).”
Commissioner Don Lovette sided with McIver, and said the county should be progressive minded, and do what’s best for the citizens in the long run.
But Fire Coordinator James Ashdown said growth has overtaken the county and its citizens are overtaxed.
Stevens argued the ISO in his district (District 1) was expected to increase any day.
Commissioner Eddie Walden sided with Martin saying, "I just want to take advantage of the talent. There’s talent here to do the job.”
McIver concluded the discussion and said the plan should remain as it is, and it would be the business of the board to provide the future funding for new firehouses, firefighters and fire equipment.
The budget is expected to be adopted at 5 p.m. today. Final budgeting decisions will be made at that time since the fiscal year starts July 1.
The $23 million 2008 budget increased less than one percent from last year, Chief Financial Officer Kim McGlothlin said.
“We do not have an inflated budget. We have a lean budget,” McIver said.
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