Glades County considers $60 per residence fire assessment

Posted 3/26/21

Glades County Commissioners continue to debate the merits of establishing a special tax assessment to pay for fire protection.

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Glades County considers $60 per residence fire assessment


MOORE HAVEN – Glades County Commissioners continue to debate the merits of establishing at special tax assessment to pay for fire protection.

At their March 22 meeting, commissioners also brought City of Moore Haven Mayor Bret Whidden into the discussion.

Commissioner John Ahern suggested the county consider a master ordinance which would allow the addition of per residence fees for other services, such as county-wide mandatory garbage pickup. For years, the city has paid for a lot of garbage that county residents bring into town, he said. Master service ordinance would give the county the ability to add fees for other services, after conducting a feasibility study to make sure the rate is appropriate for the service provided.

“I think we need to focus on the fire assessment right now,” said Commissioner Donna Storter-Long. She said they need to find out how the city feels about using a fire assessment to fund the fire department. She said some residents don’t want garbage pickup, especially if they are only living in the county part of the year.

Moore Haven Mayor Bret Whidden said his constituents have a lot of questions. They want to know how much it will cost and how many structure fires there have been in the city and county.

“I know we haven’t had too many fires in the City of Moore Haven,” he said.

Currently the city pays the county $14,000 a year toward fire service. At the proposed fire assessment of $60 per residence, $8.61 per parcel for vacant lots with businesses charged based on square footage. At the proposed rate, the total collected from the city would be about $38,418. The estimated cost of providing the service is about $121 per residence, so the residents would still only be asked to pay half, Storter-Long said.

“We only had 206 fires last year – but it only takes one if it is your home,” she said.

The plan would call for two fire trucks, each with a two-man crew, to be on duty at all times, with one stationed on the western side of the county. In addition to fighting fires, the crews could help with non-transport life support.

The fire volunteers will still be important, it was pointed out, but when a call comes in, it takes an average of 20 minutes for volunteers to get to the fire station. With two full time fire trucks manned 24/7, when a call comes in, a truck could be dispatched right away and volunteers meet them at the scene.

Mayor Whidden noted structure fires are a bigger problem if they occur in the county. “You can’t properly fight a fire if you don’t have a fire hydrant,” he said. He added that he likes the idea of the county using an annual fee for mandatory garbage pickup. “It’s not fair for people to bring in garbage and just dump it,” he said.

Whidden said he will review the information with the city council.

The Glades County Commission is also working with Hendry County on the option to have a joint fire department in Muse. If that happens, one of the county’s two ambulances would be moved to Buckhead Ridge.

The county manager said with a taxing unit, all residents pay the same amount for the same service. He said this could allow them to lower the ad valorem millage. “Whatever that number is, you can drop the ad valorem number down a bit,” he said.

For example, in Buckhead Ridge, mosquito control services is on the ad valorem tax bill. This means different amounts are charged based on the appraised value of the home. So one homeowner might pay $190 a year while a neighbor on the next street pays just $40 for the same mosquito control services.

County officials will continue to consider the fire assessment option. No vote was taken at the meeting.

Glades County, fire tax, volunteers, fires