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Official wary of proposed fire fee hike

January 11, 2002

Official wary of proposed fire fee hike



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Although he represents only one vote on the Berkeley County Commission, Commission President Howard Strauss predicted doom Thursday for parts of a proposal to raise fire fees in the county.

Strauss questioned several parts of the proposal during the commission's meeting, including the estimates made for firefighting equipment and how the proposal was presented to the commissioners.

Strauss questioned estimates from the Berkeley County Fire and Rescue Association that a new fire truck costs about $300,000.

Strauss said he remembered paying $165,000 for a fire truck for a county unit in 1990.

Under the fire fee proposal, which volunteer fire company officials say is needed to pay for new equipment, some of the fees would be doubled.

Strauss said he cannot imagine doubling some of the fees.

They "simply will not be approved," said Strauss.

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Strauss said he thinks the request to raise the fire fee should come from the Berkeley County Fire Board and not from the Berkeley County Fire and Rescue Association.

Strauss said he thinks the proposal should not come from the Fire and Rescue Association because the commissioners do not appoint members to that board as they do for the Fire Board.

"The direction we take is from the Fire Board. They have jumped the gun," said Strauss, of the Fire and Rescue Association.

Robbie Robinson, president of the Fire and Rescue Association, said one of the main functions of the Fire and Rescue Association is to develop fee proposals.

The Fire Board's main responsibility is to collect the fire fee and approve requests to buy equipment with the money, Robinson said.

Besides, the Fire Board has already approved the fees, Robinson said.

Strauss questions whether it had.

"Mr. Strauss doesn't live in a real world. He's wrong," said Robinson.

Fire Board officials could not be reached for comment Thursday night.

Robinson said the reason the county paid only $165,000 for a fire truck in 1990 was because it was a demo model.

Any fee increase must be approved by the commissioners.

Under the proposal, four classifications of the fire fee that are charged to businesses for a fire call would be doubled.

Fire fees charged to homeowners would increase by $5 and there is a new $50 fee for all homes bigger than 5,000 square feet.

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