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editorial - herald - 1/2/02

January 02, 2002

Pass Berkeley fire-fee increase



This Thursday at 7 p.m., the Berkeley County, W.Va. Commissioners will hear a request to increase the county's fire fees. Commissioner John Wright says volunteers will have to make the case for those increases. We agree. But anyone opposing these modest hikes should also have to make the case against them.

As Wright has acknowledged, fire engines aren't cheap. And as he noted, volunteers have a limited amount of time to do fund-raisers, which haven't always generated the cash needed to fund expenses or pay off station expansions.

The proposed increases are modest. Citizens with homes of 2,500 square feet would see fees go from $20 to $25, while those who own structures ranging from 2,500 to 5,000 square feet would see a boost from $25 to $30. For homes of 5,000 square feet or more, the fee would be set at $50.

It's more likely they'll be opposition to the proposed hikes in business fire fees. Those which reach 200,000 square feet now have fees that are capped at $500. The proposal would hike that maximum fee to $1,000.

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Other business fees would go up as follows: For a 2,500- square-foot business, the fee would double to $100 a year. Firms with 2,500 to 7,500 square feet would see their fees go from $100 to $200 and those ranging from 7,500 to 20,000 would see their fees go from $250 to $500.

All of these increases are expected to generate only about $157,000 more per year, which wouldn't buy a single fire engine today. They should be passed, although the commissioners may want to provide some relief to homeowners who can prove they can't afford the modest hikes proposed.

The truth is that because of the volunteers' labor, fire service is provided at bargain-basement prices only because it's always been done that way. No one would ask police to run fund-raisers to buy patrol cars and no one should deny firefighters the adequate funding that is needed to protect Berkeley County citizens' lives and property. If you agree, come to the county courthouse and express your support.

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