Chatham Co. commissioner explains new fire fee bills

Published: Nov. 18, 2022 at 10:09 PM EST
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CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - If you live in unincorporated Chatham County, and you recently got a bill for fire services, you now have more time to pay-up.

It comes after county officials decided to extend that deadline by 30 days Friday.

“Let me first say, we will not be showing up at anyone’s doors with uncle Paulie and Ray-Ray to come and get you,” said Chatham County Commissioner Aaron Whitely.

Some residents tell WTOC they are seeing much higher bills than in the past when it was an optional subscription.

Whitely says, that’s because the county chose a different way to bill for fire services.

Instead of charging based on property size and value, it’s now based on the square feet of your home.

“That’s where a lot of people are seeing that big jump. So, again, you may have only paid a certain amount last year because we were basing it on your property valuation. We weren’t looking at the gazebo, the shed, and so on and so forth.”

And, there’s another notable change this year. There’s now a $10,000 cap on fire bills.

Chatham Fire CEO Chuck Kearns said, “you’ve chosen a method that does sound more fair but, we didn’t have a cap.”

Kearns says, with that cap now in-place, residents are covering some of the tab for larger properties in unincorporated Chatham like apartment complexes.

“So, we’re billing them at $51,000, and now they’re getting billed at $10,000. There’s a gap there that is probably getting spread out.”

Commissioner Whitely says he understands people are upset. He told us the county is ready to work with residents on payment plans.

But he says, ultimately, they will need to pay it.

“If the numbers are right on your bill, then pay what you can. Set up a payment plan of some sort. We’re not coming after you next week.”

If you think your bill is wrong, and you’ve been charged too much, you can appeal it on Chatham County’s website.

You can also call the county at 912-652-7878.