Doolittle Rural Fire Protection District asks voters to approve tax levy on April ballot

Published: Feb. 25, 2021 at 4:39 PM CST
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DOOLITTLE, Mo. (KY3) - The Doolittle Rural Fire Protection District is asking voters to approve a tax levy on the April 6 ballot.

The department says it’s had the same budget of $65,000 a year since 2004. Captain Brandon Williams says that budget is no longer enough to fund the department.

“With $65,000, we’re not able to meet the NFPA recommendations of when they recommend you replace a set of gear every five years,” Captain Williams says. “We’ve tried to start a program where we buy a couple sets of gear every year, but if we buy two or three sets of gear, that’s still $7,000-$8,000.”

Captain Williams says the number one priority if the tax increase passes will be a new station. The current station was built in 1980.

“In 1980, we were running maybe 50 calls a year,” Captain Williams says. “Now we’re running 375 calls a year, so with that increase in calls, naturally we’re going to have more equipment.”

As trucks have become bigger and heavier, it’s caused the floor of the station to crack and parts of the ceiling to leak.

“It’s going to get worse and worse,” Captain Williams says. “We’ve tried our best to stop all the leaks. It’s just not working. We fill one leak and then it starts leaking another place.”

Captain Williams says the duties of the department have also evolved since 1980.

“From a fire department only responding to fires to an all-hazards department,” Captain Williams says. “Basically meaning we have to have everything on our trucks to handle a water rescue, vehicle accident, technical rescue, structure fire.”

Captain Brian Stevenson says the department’s second priority is maintaining and replacing equipment. He says this is crucial to serve the community.

“If we don’t get an increase, our services are going to start declining because we can’t afford to re-outfit our equipment and replace what we have,” Captain Stevenson says.

The fire district covers 129 square miles of rural area land and 29,000 acres of the Mark Twain National Forest. Captain Williams says they’re the first to be called within that area of the forest but don’t get any funding from the government for it.

“We’re trying to figure out is there a way we can get part of that money to help supplement our budget, but as it stands right now, we haven’t been able to find anything out because it’s basically bureaucracy,” Captain Williams says.

Several people told KY3 they’re planning to vote no because of the cost of the tax increase for their land, but they wouldn’t go on camera.

“I have yet to find somebody that likes to pay more taxes, but we wouldn’t be asking for this tax increase if we didn’t absolutely need it,” Captain Williams says. “We’re at a breaking point.”

Phelps County Clerk, Pam Grow, says a house valued at $100,000 would be paying $47.50 more a year in property taxes if this is approved.

“If and when this tax does pass, we urge you to attend the board meetings every third Tuesday at 7 [p.m.] and you’ll be able to see where your tax money is going,” Captain Williams says.

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