The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

June 25, 2013

Rural firefighters in the area need to be supported

Garfield County voters will be asked Oct. 8 to extended a small sales tax that has proven to be an incredible boon for the county.

Garfield County commissioners Monday called for the election to continue the one-tenth cent rural fire safety sales tax for another 10 years. Money generated from the current tax benefits 12 rural volunteer fire departments in the county, helping them with everything from operational expenses to purchasing new equipment.

When the first tax was brought up in 1996, there were 10 volunteer fire departments in the county, and they were struggling with broken-down equipment and a lack of a consistent revenue stream.

Garfield County Public Safety Association lobbied for a quarter-cent sales tax then for four years. It passed overwhelmingly and was used by departments to build fire stations, buy new trucks and upgrade equipment.

It proved to be money well spent. The rural volunteer departments were able to buy some great equipment that allows them to do their job of keeping people safe that much better.

In 2000, voters again overwhelmingly approved a five-year tax, this time for one-tenth of a cent. It allowed for a consistent revenue stream for the departments, which by that time had their immediate and much-needed equipment needs met. Voters then approved a nine-year extension in 2005, and will be asked in October to extend the tax again.

During the current fiscal year, which ends Sunday, each of the 12 rural departments will receive about $89,000. The current tax expires Dec. 31, 2014. The extension, if approved, would extend the tax for 10 more years, to Dec. 31, 2024.

Rural firefighters perform a valuable service. They are the first responders to fires and accidents in their regions. Imagine the problems — and the property and lives lost — if, for example, Covington didn’t have a fire department and there was a major fire and the closest firefighters to respond had to come from Enid.

We support continuation of this revenue stream for our rural fire departments. As we all know, equipment wears out and needs to be replaced. We’d hate to see our volunteer firefighters left without working equipment when they try to respond to an emergency.

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