Two members of the Washington Rural Fire Association board have filed a petition in circuit court to form a new fire protection district.
The creation of a district would give the rural fire department the ability to collect property taxes. A public vote is needed to create the taxing district, but the petition is the first step toward getting the issue on a ballot at a future election.
Board members Don Wildt and George Gerner submitted the petition Thursday, Dec. 3.
A court hearing on the petition is currently set for Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, at 1 p.m. in front of Judge Ike Lamke in Room 100A at the county courthouse.
The petition was brought up Monday night during the Washington City Council meeting. City Administrator Jim Briggs said the city is not involved “too closely” with the district.
Briggs said the proposed tax rate would be 30 cents per $100 of assessed value.
The rural fire association currently generates revenue by collecting dues. Early last year Washington Fire Chief Bill Halmich said that method does not generate sufficient revenue to support any expansion of the rural association.
The dues method is voluntary. Annual dues are predicated on type of property and insurance. Dues are paid to the rural fire association and the board of directors supervises the funds.
If a nonmember has a fire, they are billed for any services.
The funds now are used to support Station No. 5 at Krakow, but Briggs said Monday night there are ongoing talks about expanding rural fire protection services with a new fire station on Highway KK near Campbellton. He said money and firefighters are needed before construction could begin.
The Washington Fire Department and rural district are currently intertwined. The rural district has one house in Krakow, but it operates with the help of the Washington Fire Department. The city currently provides all the workers’ compensation and liability insurance to the rural association firefighters.
Briggs said if the new district was created, it would be possible to keep the same arrangement going under a contract. He said the new district could pay Washington a contract fee for the services.
Under the district, Briggs said the rural association would own the building, but the ownership of equipment would have to be determined. In the past the rural district has used its funds to purchase equipment and trucks, but the trucks are titled to the city.