County to seek attorney general’s opinion on fire department funding

Published 4:04 pm Tuesday, April 23, 2013

After deliberating specific definitions regarding the law for funding emergency medical services, the Chilton County Commission unanimously voted Monday to let the state’s attorney general clarify what the law actually states.

The decision came after an ongoing debate between the Chilton County Volunteer Fire Association and the Chilton County Commission regarding funding for the local volunteer fire stations.

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

Scott told commissioners 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 operating within the county.

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

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 the amount entitled on a monthly basis when they should have only been receiving one.

Scott argued that funding should be equal for all fire departments regardless of how many stations each department within the county had.

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

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

Jackson told commissioners Monday night he thought it would be best to seek counsel from the attorney general’s office to clarify the definition for the tax distribution for emergency medical services in Chilton County regarding the rescue tax funding.

“Due to not having a definitive definition, I think it would be best to get the opinion of the attorney general,” Jackson said.

Jackson told Scott that everyone on the commission respected the job done in the county by the volunteer fire association but it would be best to get a clear definition of what the law states before making a decision regarding the funding.

“I don’t think we accomplish anything by butting heads,” Jackson said. “My advice to the commission would be that I don’t think at this point we are at the point to make a decision.”

Scott introduced representatives including Jemison Fire Chief John Dennis, Maplesville Fire Chief Mike Drewry, Gap of the Mountain Fire Chief Sammy Mathis, Cedar Grove Fire Department Chief Adam Price, Union Grove Assistant Chief Lee Headley, Isabella Fire Chief Brent Conway, Collins Chapel Fire Chief Sean Carlisle and Scott who is fire chief at North Chilton Fire Department.

Both Enterprise Fire Department and West Chilton Fire Department were absent from the meeting.

Scott said the representatives for each fire department came to the meeting in case the commission had any questions regarding the funding for the stations.

Caton told Scott that Enterprise Fire Department sent a letter to the commission telling commissioners they did not want the funding from the rescue tax to be taken away.

Commissioners were unanimous with their decision to contact the attorney general’s office but Caton reminded Scott that it would not be an instant answer.