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Volunteer Fire Association hopes county will help correct financial error

Published 5:28pm Friday, April 5, 2013

The Chilton County Volunteer Fire Association hopes the Chilton County Commission will pass a resolution soon to clear up a financial discrepancy with local volunteer fire stations.

President of the Chilton County Fire Association Jason Scott originally addressed commissioners at the March 25 commission meeting to report a financial error he had found in looking over a financial distribution chart for 2010-2011 and 2011-2012.

Scott said he performed some “simple mathematical calculations” and discovered a problem.

After reviewing the charts showing funding given to the stations by a special ad valorem tax for rescue services, Scott found that 18 fire stations were receiving money with only 16 fire departments that operate within the county.

Each department receiving the rescue tax every month receives the same amount, but the exact amount varies each month.

Scott said the departments who had been receiving double their entitled amount since 2004 were unaware an error in distribution occurred.

Scott told commissioners during the March 25 commission meeting that after talking with county administrator Connie Powell, it was discovered that since 2004, Enterprise Station No. 2 and West Chilton Station No. 2 were receiving double amount on a monthly basis when they should have only been receiving one.

Both fire departments were under the assumption that anyone with two stations received two checks, one for the primary station and one for the second station.

However, with the particular special ad valorem tax for rescue services, no fire station should be receiving two checks.

Scott said the checks are distributed monthly through the county commission office and mailed to the recipient of the checks.

Currently, the amount distributed to each department comes from the commission taking the amount of tax money designated for rescue in total and dividing it by 18 fire stations.

“Some departments may be set up where the secretary and treasurer position are combined,” Scott said. “The municipalities may have a city clerk responsible for depositing the check into the appropriate account for the city or some departments may have only one treasurer per station.”

It is unclear where the distribution error occurred but according to Scott’s estimation the primary stations lost roughly $10,000 in revenue each with the error from 2004-2013.

However, Scott said a form or document does not exist to his knowledge for a department to file with the commission to receive two checks for rescue services.

Scott said it was decided during Volunteer Fire Association meeting that the money accrued by Enterprise Station No. 2 and West Chilton Station No. 2 would not be paid back due to the two communities benefitting from the extra funds.

“We just want to correct the error and have the funding go to the 16 fire departments inside the confines of Chilton County regardless of the number of stations you have,” Scott said. “This will make funding equal.”

Scott said the departments that are included in Chilton County are Clanton, Thorsby, Jemison, Maplesville, Union Grove, Fairview, East Chilton, Collins Chapel, West Chilton, Enterprise, South Chilton, Isabella, Verbena, Gap of the Mountain, North Chilton and Cedar Grove.

Scott asked commissioners to consider passing a resolution that would state that the special ad valorem tax be distributed evenly among the 16 fire departments and correct the error.

During the March 25 meeting, commission chairman Allen Caton said he wanted county attorney John Hollis Jackson to review everything before the commission made a decision on what to do.

Caton said after hearing what Jackson had to say regarding the matter, the commission would bring up the issue at a future meeting.

Scott said the ultimate goal is to make everything equal for all departments regardless of the number of stations for the rescue funding.

The Chilton County Volunteer Firefighter Association met at 6:30 p.m. in the county commission room at the Chilton County Courthouse on Thursday and has upcoming meetings on May 2, June 6 and July 11.

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