CARTUHERSVILLE, MO (KAIT) - The Caruthersville Fire Department could soon stop servicing Pemiscot County residents.
During the primary elections in August, Pemiscot County residents voted down a ballot measure that would organize a County fire district contractually protected by the City of Caruthersville.
The City Council says the current agreement between Caruthersville and Pemiscot County does not generate enough funds for the Caruthersville Fire Department to continue to provide service outside the city limits.
However, Caruthersville allowed its firefighters continued to serve Pemiscot County residents until November to give them another chance to vote on the measure in the general elections.
Pemiscot County missed the deadline to get the measure back on the November ballot.
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PEMISCOT COUNTY, MO (KAIT) - Pemiscot County residents voted down a ballot measure to form a fire district that includes coverage from the City of Caruthersville.
The Caruthersville City Council voted to cease coverage after residents voted against contracting with the City for a yearly fee.
Business owner and Pemiscot County Commission hopeful Ben Baker is worried County residents will not have fire protection in the coming months.
"It's going to be pretty drastic, especially if we got people trapped in houses or something out there," Baker said. "We got kids out there at the school. We got I think 323 homes in this district. We're talking about 10 businesses and three churches."
During the Missouri primaries, County residents voted down a ballot measure to organize Pemiscot County Fire Protection District Number 1, an area made up of an estimated 934 people, according to the ballot measure petition filed in Pemiscot County Circuit Court.
The Caruthersville City Council passed an ordinance in 2009 that charges $1,000 for each fire or emergency response outside the city limits. According to the City, the revenue from the fee based system is not enough to continue to provide services outside the city.
The ballot petition details an example of how much the City of Caruthersville claims it costs to offer coverage to Pemiscot County residents:
"…the City of Caruthersville's tanker truck, which is used more than 90% on calls in the proposed district, and which is necessary for combating fires within the proposed district, is in need of replacement. A new tanker is estimated to cost in excess of $200,000. Additionally labor costs for responding to rural fires is estimated to be $10,000 annually. Caruthersville has indicated that it will cease response to the proposed district if it cannot obtain a funding source for replacement of vital equipment for rural fires and to fund the other operating costs of responding to fire calls in the rural areas."
Anthony Hartsfield is the Superintendent for the Pemiscot County R-3 School District. Hartsfield worked on the petition to get the measure on the August 7 ballot. "In the election in August, it failed by two votes."
Hartsfield said the County residents' vote against organizing the fire district was also a vote against contracting with the City under new terms for coverage from the Caruthersville Fire Department.
Residents voted on three parts – whether to create a fire district, to authorize a tax rate of up to 30 cents per one hundred dollars of assessed property to fund the fire protection district and to elect a board of directors.
Caruthersville Mayor Diane Sayre has agreed to provide protection until the general elections in November just in case Pemiscot County residents want to rethink their decision not to create a fire protection district.
Baker said the County might not make the deadline to put the issue on the ballot.
"It's not enough time between August and November to get it back on the ballot," he said. "(Mayor Sayre is) still giving us the opportunity to have coverage until November 8. November 8, I don't know what we're going to do."
Hartsfield said Pemiscot County residents want fire protection, but many also do not want to pay for it.
Hartsfield estimated the "assessed valuation" of his property is about $150,000. He estimates a tax levy for the fire protection district would cost him $105 to $110 a year.
"Some people are pretty upset with the people of Caruthersville that they have forced this upon us," Hartsfield said. "Some of (the rates) that I helped calculate for ranged from $60 to $100 dollars was going to be average for just about everybody except for the farmers who own a lot of land and equipment."
Pemiscot County Assessor Donna Snider said Pemiscot County residents will not be without fire coverage because fire departments from Steele and Hayti also cover fires in Pemiscot County.
"We need something, and I don't really know what's it's going to be, but we just need Caruthersville to support us and give us fire coverage," said Baker.