Weaver ponders ending fire funding as volunteer group mulls welcoming city as new member
by Brian Anderson
Sep 05, 2013 | 2342 views |  0 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Quad City volunteer firemen Larry Cramer, left, and Tim Hicks inspect their air tanks at the station on Alabama Highway 9 in White Plains.  (Photo by Trent Penny)
Quad City volunteer firemen Larry Cramer, left, and Tim Hicks inspect their air tanks at the station on Alabama Highway 9 in White Plains. (Photo by Trent Penny)
Weaver hopes to be one step closer next week to knowing if it’s still in the fire business.

As the City Council prepares to finalize its budget for the upcoming fiscal year, there remains a lingering question of whether the city will have to fund the Weaver Fire Department.

Last month, Weaver Mayor Wayne Willis and Weaver Fire Chief Brian Bunn requested the Calhoun County Volunteer Fire Association accept the Weaver department as a member. If the association grants the request, county property tax distributed to the county’s 10 volunteer departments would fund the Weaver department as well — taking the city off the hook for $25,000 earmarked in the proposed budget.

Bunn said he plans to present more information to the association on Monday, before it takes a formal vote.

“They’re looking at house count, population and total land,” Bunn said. “That determines our share of the tax distribution.”

The volunteer departments in Calhoun County are given money based on a formula that factors in population, or houses served, and total land area. Property tax money earmarked to the association is split evenly three ways. The first third is distributed equally to the 10 departments. Another third is distributed based on the size of the area covered by the department. The final third is distributed based on the number of houses served by the department.

Van Roberts, Quad Cities Fire Department Chief and president of the Calhoun County Volunteer Fire Association, said this isn’t the first time the association has received a request for new membership. Before its incorporation into Oxford, Coldwater made a request that the association turned down. It also turned down Weaver several years ago.

“Weaver is a city,” Roberts said. “That’s something they decided years ago, and the city gives them money.”

Roberts said he didn’t want to comment on whether the association would vote to accept Weaver this time, but said the biggest factor in the decision will be how much it dilutes the tax money shared by the 10 other departments in the association.

In 2012, Roberts said the association received more than $900,000 from property taxes. Last year, half of the association’s fire departments received more than $100,000 in funding, including Alexandria Fire Department, which received the most tax money at $138,511, and Ohatchee, the only municipality in Calhoun County with a volunteer department in the association. On the other end, Eastaboga received $41,205, but Roberts said that department also receives tax money from Talladega County.

Bunn said he doesn’t know whether the association plans to vote Monday to admit the department, but expects the association will need to review the information. A vote would likely come in October at the earliest, he said.

By then, Weaver’s budget will already have been approved, but Willis said he doesn’t see that as an issue.

“It’s not a big deal,” Willis said. “If they accept the Fire Department, we’ll just move to amend the budget.”

Willis said it’s possible the $25,000 in Weaver’s proposed budget allocated for Fire Department use could be donated to the Volunteer Fire Association — although that money would be split evenly among the 11 departments in the association.

Even if the association doesn’t accept Weaver, there will still be some changes for the department in next year’s budget, Willis said. Money earmarked for pay-per-call and salary would instead go to buy new equipment.

Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.

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