Archived Story

New fire district?

Published 11:50am Friday, April 5, 2013

Proposed bill could allow residents to petition for vote

A group of property owners in Tallapoosa and Elmore counties has been working on a piece of legislation that might allow for the creation of a new South Lake Martin Fire District.

But the proposed bill is only the first step of a longer journey, which might affect residents served by Willow Point/Ourtown and Windemere Volunteer Fire Departments.

“The ultimate goal is to have 24/7 fire and EMS service (for these residents), and this bill is simply a vehicle to make that a possibility,” said Steve Windom, a lobbyist working on the bill and one of the residents of the proposed fire district. “If the bill passes, it will allow owners in the district to file a petition to ask the two probate judges to call an election to see if property owners would like to form a fire district.”

Windom said the bill would also allow property owners to vote on whether to levy a fee on those in the district, which would be used to provide stable funding for the two volunteer districts.

“This bill doesn’t establish a fire district or impose a fee,” Windom said. “It is a vehicle to allow that process to move forward.”

Windom said that the bill has been in the works for quite some time, and has the approval of both Windermere and Willow Point/Ourtown VFDs.

If the bill passes, a petition of 50 qualified property owners in the two districts would be required before an election could be held. Windom said that two matters – the creation of a fire district and the levying of a fee – could be on one ballot or be decided through two elections.

Qualified property owners will be determined by the most recent tax assessment rolls for the proposed area, the bill states.

Windom said if voters choose to create and fund a new fire district, it could mean enhanced fire protection for those served by the two VFDs.

In addition to creating a new district, the bill would also allow for the creation of a South Lake Martin Fire District board of directors, which would include seven qualified property owners. This board could explore the option of contracting full-time firefighters and paramedics.

The bill is currently being advertised in local newspapers and is expected to be introduced around April 25.