KERSHAW COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) -Some residents in Kershaw County are complaining about a new fire service fee approved this week by county council. The fee is designed to improve and expand fire services, but some residents think it’s unfair.
Kershaw County Council members say the new fee will allow the county to transition from a volunteer fire system, to a career fire system ensuring quicker response times. The $29 fee will apply to every piece of approved property. Council also approved a .9 millage increase, which will cost about $4 for a $100,000 taxable property.
An important clarification - this fee would not apply to residents who are served by the Lugoff and Camden Fire Departments. It would only be in effect for those people who are currently served by the 12 volunteer fire departments in the Kershaw County fire services.
The new fees are expected to bring the county more than $1 million, which they intend to use to provide 24/7 fire services. County leaders say, currently, an emergency fire call is sometimes directed to multiple fire stations before volunteers are able to respond. This can add a significant delay before help is able to arrive, sometimes leading to “catastrophic results.”
One Kershaw County resident, Jeff Mattox, says there may be a need for more fire services, but doesn’t think residents should have to take on the burden of paying for them by taking on even more fees than they’re already responsible for.
“There are many elderly people with fixed incomes that own houses and own a vehicle that are saying, ‘what about our health care costs? How are we going to afford all this?," Mattox said.
Several people living in Kershaw County made a point in saying they have nothing against the fire departments. They say, their issue is with county council and how they’re managing the budget. Some residents say the council should already have the money for improved fire services without making the community pay more.
“It’s not about that anybody’s against fire. We’re not against the fire department or anything like that. I think the issue is more the frivolous spending on things that are not necessary versus things that are necessary,” Mattox said.
Kershaw County Council members tell WIS-TV that this new fee will also mean additional firefighters, upgraded facilities, and a brand new fire station in Cassatt.