Vandiver voters to be asked to approve fire district in March 30 vote

Published 5:10 pm Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The 1,450 residents of Vandiver are served by the all-volunteer Vandiver Fire and Emergency Services Department.

However, only about 300 of those 1,450 see fit to pay the voluntary $50 dues sought by the department each year, which doesn’t provide the funds needed to maintain the department’s two stations and equipment.

That’s why the Vandiver town council is working to form the Vandiver Fire District, which would have the ability to assess homeowners a mandatory $50 per year to help fund the fire and rescue department.

Vandiver voters will be asked to approve the fire district at a March 30 election.

“We just cannot continue at that level of funding,” said Dennis Brasher, Vandiver’s fire chief since 2000. “Why don’t more pay the fire dues? I don’t know. The thing is, it’s about the same people who pay each year. And usually it’s the ones on fixed incomes, who can afford it least, who pay.”

The volunteers of Vandiver Fire made 252 runs last year and provide life and property-saving services to the community’s citizens. In addition, the efforts of the Vandiver fire and rescue volunteers mean Vandiver residents save hundreds of dollars each year in their homeowners’ insurance premiums.

“Our ISO rating cuts insurance premiums by about 45 percent a year versus what they would pay without the work we do. Some people save as much as $1,500 a year because of our department,” Brasher said.

That’s why he finds the opposition to the fire district puzzling. Brasher said an anonymous group has mailed a flyer to all Vandiver households urging they vote against the forming of the fire district.

What’s more, the flyer was designed deceivingly, making it look as if it was sent to residents by the fire department. He wonders why the person or group behind the effort doesn’t want to be identified and finds that motivation suspicious.

“I don’t know why people would be against this. Maybe it’s that they don’t want to be told they have to pay,” he said. “I don’t look at this like a tax. I think of it more as dues.”

The state of Alabama allows such fire districts to seek a 5 percent increase each year, Brasher said. But the town council, in forming the fire district, took that into account and capped the amount that can ever be assessed on any parcel of property at $250.

“That means that any homeowner who has 100 buildings on their property and has 10,000 acres, the most they would pay is $250,” he said. “I’ll tell you this, if everyone would just pay their $50 dues, we would never have to raise it.”