Andersonville fire chief defends new fees despite death threats

Andersonville fire chief defends new fees despite death threats

"Change is not easy and people don't like it," Andersonville Fire Chief Jeff Bagwell said. "Change is not easy and people don't like it," Andersonville Fire Chief Jeff Bagwell said.

6 News Reporter

ANDERSONVILLE (WATE) - An Anderson County fire chief says he has received death threats after his volunteer department implemented a fee-based program.

Andersonville Fire Chief Jeff Bagwell says despite the threats, the program will go forward.

"These boots on average would cost $200 to $300 dollars," Chief Bagwell said as he talked about the costs of keeping the department outfitted.

Bagwell says the cost of running the fire department have continued to rise and something had to be done to bring in more money.

"We didn't have much of a chance if we wanted to stay in business," said Bagwell.

The fire board decided in October to start a fee-based program in Andersonville.
"It's eight cents per square feet, total square feet of the house -- the living space, along with the basement, finished or unfinished and their garages," said Chief Bagwell.

More than half of the homes in Andersonville will be paying between $100 and $250 a year.

Residents have the option of not signing up, but that will cost more money in the case of a fire. If a resident is not a member and their home catches fire, they will be billed $1,900 for the first hour of service.

The fire chief says he feels they have done enough to educate the public about this fee-based program. Firefighters put up 15 signs in the community reminding people to sign up. They also held two public meetings.

Still, some residents think there are still a lot of unanswered questions.

"I didn't know anything about it," said Andersonville resident Earl Weaver. "I think the fire department has done a great job here, but I would like to know a little bit more about what they will be charging me for here."

Chief Bagwell says he has received several death threats because of the new fee, but says in time the program will be a benefit to the community.

"Some of the personal attacks we would liked not to have, but we understand those things happen," he said. "Change is not easy and people don't like it."

The fee-based program does not start until January, but people are already being asked to send in their fees. Chief Bagwell says several hundred people have already paid.

He says the program will allow the department to hire four full-time employees, plus keep the stations manned 24 hours a day.

It will also triple their current budget of $100,000.

The Anderson County Commission does not have a say about the fee program, but because of concerns from residents the operations committee set up a public forum on December 10 at 7 p.m. to discuss the issue.

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