The county will replace the existing flat rate with a minimum/maximum fee based on the square footage of each building. The move will create a more equitable system and result in thousands of property owners with smaller homes actually paying less each year in unincorporated Walker County and the City of Chickamauga.
The new rate calls for a $0.10 fee per square foot on all buildings, with a minimum of $90 and maximum of $400 to be charged on a residential house, mobile home, duplex or triplex. This will lower fees on roughly 10,000 residential properties. For example, someone living in a 900 square foot home will now pay $90, instead of $130. A neighbor with a 1,200 square foot house will now pay $120, instead of $130.
Residents who live in homes with 1,301 square footage space or more will notice an increase in their public safety fee. Revisions have also been made to the fee for agricultural, commercial and industrial buildings.
Commissioner Whitfield said, “Throughout the campaign, many citizens voiced their concerns about the fire fee not being equitable for someone living in a mobile home or small house, compared to residents that live in larger homes. It’s clear by restructuring this fee, we can create a rate that’s fair for all citizens of Walker County that also allows us to expand services and provide faster response times across the county.”
At the same time, improvements in fire protection and public safety will spread across Walker County as the number of full-time career fire stations will be increased from 4 to 6. Station 14 in Villanow and Station 15 in the Cane Creek Community will transition to 24/7/365 operations. Full-time firefighters will also be relocated from Station 11, just west of LaFayette, to Station 20, near Highway 136 and Cove Road.
Walker County Emergency Services Chief Blake Hodge said, “We believe it’s possible to significantly improve response times to 12 districts, based on recent improvements seen at Station 2 in Flintstone. The biggest impact will be in the Villanow area, where staffing Station 14 with full-time firefighters is estimated to reduce our response time from 24 to 9 minutes.”
Station 2 in Flintstone transitioned to a full-time station in July. The county’s other full-time stations are in Rock Spring and Chickamauga.
Commissioner Whitfield said, “I commend Chief Hodge for reviewing our call volume and developing a plan to reach residents faster, utilizing existing manpower and equipment.”
The fire station restructuring will take place October 1, 2017, the same day the updated public safety fee schedule takes effect.