Andersonville fire department money on hold for charging members

Andersonville fire department money on hold for charging membership fees

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The Andersonville Volunteer Fire Department started charging a membership fee last year based on square footage, which amounts to between $100 and $200 a year for most homeowners. The Andersonville Volunteer Fire Department started charging a membership fee last year based on square footage, which amounts to between $100 and $200 a year for most homeowners.
The Andersonville Volunteer Fire Department is still mostly that. They have about 25 volunteers and only two paid employees, one full time firefighter plus an office manager. The Andersonville Volunteer Fire Department is still mostly that. They have about 25 volunteers and only two paid employees, one full time firefighter plus an office manager.
Anderson County Commissioners say they've put a hold on giving the department their annual $20,000, claiming the department is trying to double dip. Anderson County Commissioners say they've put a hold on giving the department their annual $20,000, claiming the department is trying to double dip.
By JILL MCNEAL
6 News Anchor/Reporter

ANDERSONVILLE (WATE) - A local volunteer fire department had their county funding put on hold because they decided to charge a membership fee. The Anderson County Commission voted this week to withhold $20,000 from the Andersonville Volunteer Fire Department.

The department started charging a membership fee last year based on square footage, which amounts to between $100 and $200 a year for most homeowners. Paying that fee means members won't be charged extra for their emergency calls. Non-members have to pay, sometimes thousands of dollars in case of a fire.

The Andersonville Volunteer Fire Department is still mostly that. They have about 25 volunteers and only two paid employees, one full time firefighter plus an office manager.

"We want the bare minimum to get our equipment there to save lives and save property," said Chief Jeff Bagwell.

Chief Bagwell, himself a volunteer, says the community backlash started when the department went from accepting donations to charging membership fees. He says they did that because donations were down and so were their volunteer numbers.

"It got to a point where in three to five years we'd be broke," Bagwell said.

Donations were only netting about $35,000 a year. Memberships now bring in $175,000. That pays the two employee salaries and other costs.

"Basic turnout gear for one firefighter costs $1,500. An air pack costs 5,000," Bagwell said.

Anderson County Commissioners say they've put a hold on giving the department their annual $20,000, claiming the department is trying to double dip.

"You're wanting to charge people for their services and then also receive their tax donation. No," said commissioner Steve Emert.

Emert says he would prefer the department charge a flat rate per property, not based on square footage.

"The community is torn apart right now," Emert said. "No one has been against the fire department, but everyone up here is against the membership fee they have decided to charge."
 
Andersonville resident Rodney Stooksbury is of them.

"They said it's 8 cents a square foot, they tell me my house is a third bigger than it is, and they're trying to bulldoze over me and I'm sorry, I don't want them here. I want them to go away," Stooksbury said.

Steven Marriott at Steve O's Barber Shop has a different view.

"They're part of the community. I don't care to pay as long as they do their job," Marriott said.
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