DANDRIDGE (WATE) - Dandridge officials are looking into possibly charging subscription fees for fire protection in some parts of the town.
The Karns Volunteer Fire Department in Knox County switched to the subscription model last year. Officials there call it a success.
The Dandridge Volunteer Fire Department says the majority of the calls it handles are in the county, but the majority of the funding comes from the town.
According to the fire department during March 2012, the department received 45 county calls, but only 10 city calls.
During the 2011-12 fiscal year, the department received $221,306 in funding.
The town contributed $110,000 or 49.70% while the county allocated $55,000 or 24.85% of the department's funding.
"The town of Dandridge citizens are supplementing the county residents for fire residents, and the fire chief and I felt it would be equitable for everyone to pay their fair share," said Dandridge Mayor George Ganntte.
The fire department says it's looking at implementing a subscription service that would ask those living outside town limits to pay seven cents for every square foot of their home.
The department got the idea from the Karns Volunteer Fire Department.
"They've been able to substantially increase their budget by at least triple or quadruple to build newer equipment, replace old equipment and build new substations," said Andy Riley, chief of the Dandridge VFD.
The department says it needs funding to replace old trucks and equipment. There are also proposed plans to build three more substations in the Dandridge service area.
Jefferson County Commission voted not to provide extra funding for them. "We had thought they would fund $25,000 annually for the substations, but apparently they decided against that at this time," Ganntte said.
The idea of a subscription seems to have support with some county residents. Steve Zurawski lives outside of Dandridge and would have to pay for fire service. His home caught fire three years ago, just one reason why he doesn't mind paying.
"If they didn't have the equipment that they had and they weren't able to keep with the modern things, I wouldn't be here and so would my home," Zurawski said.
The fire department says the fees could generate around $200,000 each year.
The board of mayor and aldermen will hear from the Karns fire chief next week about their subscription program.
The board also plans to hold a series of community meetings before voting on the fees.
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