Firefighters: Greenbrier County fire levy could help stations - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Firefighters: Greenbrier County fire levy could help stations stay open

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LEWISBURG, W. Va (WVVA)-- A proposed fire levy in Greenbrier County is up for a vote on March 2, 2013.

County voters have the choice whether or not to pass a levy that would cost them on average, $72.00/year. The exact amount depends on how much taxable property residents have.

The money would generate approximately 1.8 million dollars to be divided between the 15 county fire departments. Without those guaranteed funds, some fire stations throughout the county may be forced to close, firefighters said Friday.

"We found that only about 45% of people actually donated [to the fire companies]," said Chief Wayne Pennington of the Lewisburg Fire Department. "Some of the departments... they're borderline... and face the possibility of closure due to lack of funds."

And without a fire department serving their immediate area, homeowner's insurance for residents in that part of the county could double or even triple.

"That would [bump them up] to a Class 10 for insurance, which is no fire department," said Pennington. "It's mind-boggling how much that could cost you."

Pennington added that safety is also a risk when a fire department is no longer located in a neighborhood.

"If a community did lose its fire department... it's going to be a longer time from the initial alarm until someone gets there to help you," he said.

The levy money can only spent on things like equipment, construction and maintenance of facilities, and office expenses.  It can not go toward salaries or a firefighter's personal expenses.

"This can also help us meet future guidelines we legally need to meet," said Pennington. "The money can help our equipment stay up to date with the law."

Pennington told WVVA that just one of the water pumping trucks costs between 150,000 and 400,000 dollars.

The county commission does not fund fire departments at this time, but under the levy a Fire Coordinator would be appointed to liaise with the commission on a regular basis.

If the levy passes in March, fire departments will no longer ask residents for dues and service fees, Pennington said.

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