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Chatham County Commission discusses the Fire Protection Service Fee during virtual meeting

Published: May. 9, 2022 at 11:52 PM EDT
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CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - Millions of dollars might be coming back to Chatham County Emergency Services pending a final vote on fire fees.

This only applies to homeowners in unincorporated Chatham County. This is the first time unincorporated Chatham residents have been able to comment on the final proposed plan.

Most of the Chatham County Commission’s 40 minute meeting went to hearing from the public about the proposed fire fees for unincorporated Chatham residents.

These discussions started when residents weren’t paying a subscription fee to Chatham Emergency Services leaving Chatham EMS short millions of dollars.

The new contracted fees with Chatham Emergency Services will be based on the square footage of your property, including anything that can catch fire.

County manager Lee Smith says the county expects to earn back their budgeted 13.2 million dollars from the fees and possibly an additional 1 to 200,000 dollars.

Sharon Maccagnano said, “if you had one-third households not paying their share now you’ll have everyone in compliance...I would think that would drive the cost down or at least stay the same?”

Salary increases for fire fighters, increases for worker’s comp was over $900,000 dollars in additional costs.

“Since this is a private service has there been bids to other companies willing to provide fire services?” asked Chris Hanks.

The problem was time. CES would not be able to make payroll within 3 to 4 months with a 3 million-dollar deficit.

Glynda Jones asked, “did anyone take a look at what people were already paying and how it will impact households?”

You could’ve rolled it into the millage but that would increase the millage by 3 mills.

The other is looking at putting this as a tax. The tax commissioner says that was her preference but she would not put a fee on the tax bill

So what happens if you don’t pay?

The assistant county attorney said they can file a lien to get the fee back. They also said under a new ordinance, the homeowner can be brought to magistrate court, but if you end up paying, the case will be dismissed.

What else you need to know

  • It’s a five year contract
  • Following the commission’s approval, there won’t be any fees collected until after July 1.
  • The meeting is scheduled to happen at 9:30 a.m. this Friday at the legislative building.
  • You can also email any questions you have to firefee@chathamcounty.org.

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