RICHMOND HILL, GA (WTOC) - There could soon be a fire fee coming to Richmond Hill.
Richmond Hill City Council heard the first reading about the fire fee ordinance on Tuesday and they’ll vote on it in less than two weeks. Mayor Russ Carpenter says they’ll be joining other agencies, like Bryan County and Pembroke, who already charge a fire fee.
“We did a study last spring that said you are going to need major increases in your fire department, and obviously with major increases, you have to find a way to fund it,” Carpenter said.
Their plan is to charge all households $185, and all Richmond Hill businesses and commercial properties would pay $250. This annual fee would be included in the yearly property tax bill for homeowners and go solely towards helping the fire department continue to step up its game. Residents think it’s for a good cause.
“I think if the first responders or fire department need the money, then let them have it,” Richmond Hill resident, Andrew Beauchamp, said.
“It makes me feel a lot safer that and to know that they’ve got what they need to help my family and my neighbor’s family,” resident Lionel Crawford said.
Most residents say they understood the need for the fire fee, but it’s definitely catching them off guard. Even though officials have looked into the possibility of a fire fee for a year, they have not told residents. Most said they are just now hearing about the fee.
“When you are not informed of things like that, it kind of takes away from what the mission of it is,” Crawford said.
Richmond Hill City Manager Chris Lovell says the $185 a year taxpayers would be paying is only a portion of the entire fire budget. He says while places like churches and schools would be exempt from the fee, they are ultimately trying to meet taxpayers halfway.
“In other communities, they have had situations where their ISO rating has gone up and directly effects your homeowners insurance, so if ISO ratings go up, your homeowners insurance cost will go up,” Lovell said. “We feel that the $185 per house to keep it at a lower rate would offset the cost of if your home insurance went up.”
The Richmond Hill Bryan County Chamber of Commerce will host two forums next week to hear from the public. The first meeting will be Thursday, March 28 at 6:15 p.m. The second will be Friday March 29 at 8:30 a.m. They will both be at the Chamber of Commerce office in Richmond Hill. City Manager Chris Lovell and Mayor Carpenter said they will be there to make a presentation and hear from the community.
“You always have to weigh both sides. Obviously, you go where the majority goes and you go with what’s the best and what you know is needed for the city," Carpenter said. "You can never ignore those people against it, and we really want to listen to them.”