The Jefferson County Commission and Jefferson County Emergency Services Agency have scheduled a set of public meetings to seek input as well as provide information to residents regarding a proposed Fire and EMS fee.
The county has been debating the implementation of such a fee for some time, seeking a change in state law to allow them to begin charging a combined fee. We believe that the county is moving ahead in a cautious and detail-oriented mode and commend them for such action.
The addition of any fee, be it $20 or $100, can and will be a burden on many county residents. Specific thoughts go to those individuals on a fixed income as well as those who have been hardest hit by the economic downturn over the past months and years. Seeking input from all individuals who will be responsible for paying such a fee is a responsible way to go about making such a decision.
We are aware that the county's Emergency Services Agency and their appointed public relations team have conducted studies and sought any number of calculations to help determine what a fee might be. While no numbers have been publicly announced, anyone in the fire and rescue community can assure us that the cost is not cheap. To run and maintain a company with proper equipment and up-to-date training is essential in providing for the public safety.
In today's world, the reliance on all-volunteer companies may well be on the way out as often there are not volunteers available during certain times. This fact initially prompted the county to study the possibility of paid fire service personnel just as they did paid EMS personnel in years' past. The difference now is that the county can no longer pay the fees required to offer paid personnel in both arenas without charging the public.
We encourage members of the community to attend the scheduled public meetings and find out where the fees will go and what they will pay for. We also encourage those implementing such fees to continue on an open and transparent level so that the citizenry does not resent such a measure as a fire and EMS fee but rather understands and supports it.