We have a very important issue coming up for public vote on March 19th, 2013. You will be asked to cast your ballot either for or against the Fire Bond Referendum. Here is a summary from the Patch:
“If voters say yes to the bond referendum, the city will issue up to $6 million in bonds that will pay for the construction of up to three new fire stations within the city limits. The stations will be constructed at The Bluffs, Laurel Canyon and Market Place, with the Laurel Canyon station being built first.
The bonds can be issued incrementally, and the city does not have to issue all $6 million in bonds.
Bryan proposed an initial bond of $800,000 to pay for Laurel Canyon in 2013, and take out more bonds as needed for the next phases of the three-year construction project.
Mayor Gene Hobgood had reservations about taking out $6 million, and was especially concerned about leasing fire trucks and having to pay interest on them for the next 20 years.
"We could pay up to $1 million dollars in interest on the fire trucks," Hobgood said. "We could build four stations for $4.2 million, not 6. Vehicles shouldn't be in the referendum."
Huffman suggested getting the referendum on the ballot first, then worrying about the issue of vehicles and how to pay for them.
Although the bonds would pay for the fire stations and potentially vehicles, the bond cannot pay for the salaries of the fire fighters themselves. There is a probability that millage rates will have to increase to pay the fire fighters.
The issue will come to a vote on March 19.”
I am not asking you to vote a certain way however, I am asking you to research some facts before casting your ballot. With that said, due to my research and the current climate of our city council, I will be voting NO March, 19th. The following are some of my reasons:
- The exact cost of the fire stations, equipment and employees is unknown. There has been no formal analysis carried out.
- Overruns will be unknown. Please reference the reservoir project for past council performance.
- The money to build the stations was collected by the COUNTY through SPLOST funds and is sitting there, ready to build the stations. I assume this can only happen if the City and County fire services were consolidated. If so, the stations could be built NOW without any additional cost from the taxpayers.
- After speaking with a county commissioner, it would seem the most reasonable (and safest) route would be to join fire services with the county.
- Tax payers will have to pay these funds back.
- Bond funds can't be used for staffing these stations.
- The insurance savings on the average house will only be $36 per year. The tax rate on that same house will increase by $296 per year.
- From Glen Cummins: “The Taxes on homes without the senior homestead exemption will see an increase as follows when all is completed in four years: $100,000 home $148; $200,000 home $296; and a $300,000 $444.”
I am all for bettering our fire services and doing what is best for our worthy community. However, I just don’t see how we can move in this direction, at this time. Hooky Huffman was quoted as saying he would rather get the money approved and then figure out how to spend it. Like many things with this council, they are putting the cart before the horse. This referendum needs a firm and very detailed plan in order to succeed.
Early voting is currently underway and will be for the next three weeks!
If anyone would like a Vote NO yard sign, I have them available. firstname.lastname@example.org