Inspiration Point dues increase to be voted on Wednesday

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

EUREKA SPRINGS -- Property owners who live in the Inspiration Point Volunteer Fire Department district are looking at a significant increase in annual dues to support the fire department. That issue, along with selection of fire board commissioners, will be decided in an election Wednesday evening at the Retreat at Sky Ridge.

The proposed increase will go from $30 to $50 on undeveloped land, $60 to $100 on a house, and $75 to $125 on commercial property. Those who own more than one property will pay one fee in the highest classification if the names are the same on the deeds.

According to IPVFD officials, the increase is long overdue.

"It's been many years since there was an increase, and we're nowhere near keeping up with the cost of doing business," said fire district Commissioner Jim Simmons. "If one were to keep up with the cost of inflation from when the current charges were instituted, it would would be something like $120 for a house. We thought we were being conservative."

Inspiration Point has long had problems with both personnel and equipment. Three years ago, faced with the possible consolidation of its area into other fire districts, residents rallied and elected a new commission to turn things around.

"When we went through the almost failure of the fire department and got a new commission, a lot of people, the regular members, said let's increase the dues right now, but our thinking was we need to find out if we can do better with what's available," Simmons said. "And we did. We got three new fire trucks."

But even though they worked hard to make changes, "the handwriting is on the wall," he said. "We've increased the number of firefighters, and each has to be equipped with something like $1,700 worth of equipment. While we've made the department better and increased the function and safety for all members, that doesn't come for free."

IPVFD is not the only fire district that has seen increases in recent years.

Three years ago Grassy Knob increased its dues from $20 to $40 for undeveloped land and from $50 to $100 for a house.

"It hadn't been doubled in 33 years," said Fire Chief Bob McVey. "Now it meets the budget, and the auxiliary supplements with fund-raisers."

He said that out of 833 residents in the district, there were only two or three complaints.

Eureka Springs Rural Fire District (outside the city limits) raised its dues two years ago from $25 to $35 for land and from $50 to $60 for a house.

The Holiday Island Rural Fire District, which hasn't had an increase since 2000, will see a small increase this year, said Fire Chief Jack Deaton, from $25 to $30 on undeveloped land and from $50 to $60 for a house.

Many people do not understand that if they don't pay their dues, and they have a fire, they will be billed for the department fighting it, he said.

"They have to understand that if I go up to a fire, they have to pay $750."

Simmons said he and other commissioners at IP have worked hard to make people understand the needs of the fire department, which include replacing broken and outdated equipment.

"We want people behind it and want them to understand this is a real thing you can be proud of, but you do need to pay for it. Everyone I've talked to, once they understand, are all for it."

IPVFD's meeting will take place Wednesday, Nov. 6, at 6 p.m. at the Retreat at Sky Ridge at 637 CR 111. (Editor's note: the print edition erroneously lists the fire station on Ozark Automotive Rd. as the location. We apologize for this error.) Residents will also vote for the election of three new commissioners.

More information can be found at www.ip-fire.org.

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