'Pay for Spray' issue back at square one
OBION COUNTY, Tenn. — A local county's controversial policy requiring home owners pay a fee for fire protection or else risk letting their home burn will soon come to an end. But as tempers flare, one possible solution, a fire tax, just went up in smoke.
In a 12 to 6 vote, Obion County commissioners voted down a proposed fire tax that would have provided fire protection for people living outside the city limits.
This is an ongoing debate and controversy Local 6 has been following for months. However, there's still no clear answer as to what will happen in the future.
A motion to implement a fire tax failed and the $75 subscription fee option for people living in the county will go away at the end of the month.
Commissioners, city leaders and members of the public filled the commission hearing Friday morning hoping to find a solution to a growing problem.
"Set aside our egos, our personal differences, agree to disagree if we must but fix the problem," Union City Fire Chief Kelly Edmison said. "That's what you as elected officials are asked to do and we as firefighters are expected to do. Fix the problem."
Obion County Commissioner Danny Jowers wants to fix the problem, too, and is baffled by the situation. Jowers supports the subscription fee option, which will end later this month.
"We've got 70 percent of the population out here wanting to pay somebody and we can't find a mechanism to collect it," Jowers said. "If you wanted to pay, you paid and if you didn't pay, that's your consequences. We're adults. We know what we're supposed to be doing. Quit whining to the government because you messed up."
Robert Bagwell lives in the county and has paid the subscription fee for decades. He doesn't mind coughing up the cash, whether by a tax or subscription fee and doesn't know what the future holds.
"I was hoping for the fire tax," Bagwell said. "We're just going to have to do whatever we do. There's nothing we can do about it. We'll either have it or we won't. I don't know what else to do."
However, one commissioner made clear he does know what to do: help people in an emergency.
"For the fire departments to tell people, 'If we don't get our money, we will let your house burn down,' and eventually someone will die, is no less than blackmail," said Commissioner Kenneth Barnes. "Make no bones about it. It's blackmail."
The Obion County Clerk has said it's not her duty or responsibility to accept the fee and will stop doing it by the end of the month. Now with no fire tax, that leaves people living in the county with nowhere to turn if their home catches fire.
The next regularly scheduled commission meeting is later this month. However, there could be a special called meeting. We'll keep you updated.