Baldwin Firefighters Fight for Funding

Firefighters Fight for Funding

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BAY MINETTE, Alabama -

When fire threatens, firefighters are the first to be called.

"We have the luxury of having one of the finest emergency service organizations in the state," says Baldwin County Firefighters Association President Gib Hixson, "and the reason is we can afford it."

37 fire departments protect Baldwin county. They are funded in part through property taxes and license tags fees. Lately it's been more than smoke and flames that has them worried. "There has been talk from our legislative delegation of impacting our revenue stream by taking away part of our ad valorem tax money," says Hixson.

The money to be used to fund incentive packages when recruiting business and industry to the county. "They are talking about finding some money in the neighborhood of four to 500 thousand dollars a year to go into fund that would give the economic development alliance some money to use for either business expansion or either a new industry coming that would allow for infrastructure to be included in the deal," says Baldwin county commission chairman Tucker Dorsey.

The impact to the fire departments would be an estimated 12 to 13 thousand dollars a piece.

In a three to one vote the commission approved a resolution telling lawmakers to find another source of money for economic development but it wasn't a unanimous vote.

"We just assume leave the fire departments alone," says commissioner Bob James. "They're doing a great job. They need good equipment. They need training, they're dealing with a lot of different issues out there."

Chairman Dorsey opposed the resolution. "It's just bad politics to send a resolution up there to not fool with the money. Instead we should be sitting down and saying we've got to protect our firefighters, we've got to be very competitive in economic development how do we solve the problem?"

The resolution opposing using firefighter funding now heads to Montgomery. It's a message firefighters hope will be heard loud and clear.

So far this legislative session a bill regarding the tax has not been introduced. If one is eventually introduced and passed it would go before voters in the form of a referendum for a final decision.

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