An updated fire study could mean the end to private fire subscription fees and the beginning of a county-collected fire tax.
The update to a 1997 fire study will be presented at a Columbia County Emergency Services meeting on Monday.
The more than 75-page update takes a deeper look at some recommendations made in the 1997 fire study, specifically whether or not to impose a property tax on Columbia County residents for fire service as opposed to a charging subscriptions.
"One of the recommendations in there was to consider replacing subscription fees in the unincorporated areas of the county with a property tax," said County Administrator Steve Szablewski. "That option was never pursued because the decision makers at that time felt they didn't want to do it."
After receiving complaints from residents about the subscription service, commissioners asked Szablewski to update the report, which he and his staff have been doing over the past several months.
Man of the complaints came because residents can deduct the property tax from their income taxes, but not the subscription fee, said Szablewski.
Szablewski, who co-authored the 1997 study, also said the update also examines the possibility of a central, fully-manned fire station to be built in Phinizy that would service Appling, Leah and Winfield communities.
Szablewski stresses that the update is just a preliminary report and is a long way from becoming a final draft.
"After presenting this study, we'll then it turn over to the fire departments, the two cities and county officials and say, 'This is what we've come up. These are the findings we have and these are some recommendations. Review it, make your comments and then we'll receive your comments,"' he said. "Probably in July, we'll come back with a final report after they've had a chance to review it."
Copies of the report will also be made available to the general public next week on the county's Web site at www.co.columbia.ga.us and as hard copies at the Emergency Management Agency office in the Evans Government Complex.
"We're proposing a 30-day review and comment period," Szablewski said. "After that review period of a month, we're going to take several weeks to review those comments, digest what is being said, make appropriate changes and issue a final report."
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