Barbour County Volunteer Firefighters Need Rescue

On Super Tuesday Mike Stell is counting on Barbour County voters to eliminate a 'super' dilemma.

"It's critical," said Stell, Chairman of the Barbour County Volunteer Firefighters Association.

Simply put the county's 11 volunteer fire departments need a rescue.

"We may not be able to answer all the calls," Stell said.

Stell claims the money the fire departments get from the state's tobacco tax is no longer enough, so the proposal is this; $30 a year per house and $75 a year per business. One estimate has the total collected from the fees at around $240,000 every year. From that amount the 11 departments would each receive $21,000, far more than what they're getting now through the tobacco tax and fundraisers.

"At the Green's Crossroads Volunteer Fire Department, the insurance is $4,800 a year.  On top of that gas is a lot higher today, and then you factor in all the equipment we need," Stell said.

It's the sign of the times for the Barbour County Volunteer Fire Departments made worse by the fact the vote is coming at a really bad time. Stories of a national recession abound and the mere fact that Barbour County is by far NOT the most prosperous county in the state. Unemployment is hovering around 6%, according to Stell.

"Not everybody can afford to give something extra. That's why we tried to keep the proposed fees to a minimum," Stell said.

The volunteer fire department in the Mount Andrew community closed last year simply because there wasn't enough cash on hand to keep it opened.

"Somehow we got to pay for this," Stell said.

Stell believes residents will approve the two fees by a 4 to 1 margin, based on word of mouth on the street, but history isn't on the side of Mike Stell. Barbour County voters have rejected anywhere from 8 to 12 tax proposals since 1970.

The Eufaula City Fire Department would not be covered by the proposed fees because that department is city-funded.

Stell says if the fees pass, not everyone would have to pay. People who earn less than $12,000 or less a year are exempt as well as those 65-years old and older living on social security.