RICHMOND HILL, GA (WTOC) - Richmond Hill residents will now get an extra fee on their yearly property taxes.
The fire fee decision comes after City Council unanimously passed the ordinance with practically no opposition. Leaders weren’t surprised that there were little to no opponents at Tuesday night’s meeting.
WTOC has been talking to locals for weeks about the fee, and everyone we’ve met says they need to support the fire fee so they can support their fire department.
City Council members say the fee isn’t to burden residents, but to help them.
“I don’t think there is any citizen in Richmond Hill that wants to dial 911 and not get a response,” said Councilman Les Fussell, Richmond Hill.
Right now, according to national standards, the Richmond Hill Fire Department is lacking manpower. This fire fee would more than double the department size. By 2023, they would go from five firefighters on each of the three shifts, to 12 on each of the shifts.
Five-year Richmond Hill resident Lavetris Singleton says she wants her department to be properly staffed.
“I definitely think that no one wants an extra bill, but it’s one of those things, it’s necessary,” she said.
There was one recurring concern from residents, and that was making sure everyone pays their fair share. Right now, apartment complexes would pay the $250 fee for commercial properties, but the 100 or so residents renting on the property wouldn’t pay anything. Council verbally promises to fix that.
“The question comes in, ‘is this the best situation?' We think it is. Is it perfect? No. Will we tweak it? Yes," said Mayor Russ Carpenter, Richmond Hill.
“I think everyone in the community recognizes the need to enhance our fire department,” said Chris Lovell, Richmond Hill, City Manager. “I think everyone just wants to make sure that we do it as equitably as possible across the board.”
When will those equitable tweaks come? Singleton believes it will get taken care of.
“I do think that they will review it on an ongoing basis,” she said. “If there’s any way we can make better changes for the city, I have faith that they will do it.”
The city says they’ve been planning the fire fee for more than a year. They say it’s all about building up the department.