Questionnaires sent by Oakdale Rural Fire Protection District (ORFD) to the residents in the Division 1 North response area were returned with 86 percent voting “No” that they did not want to be annexed into the rural district for fire protection service.
There are 246 parcels in the Division 1 North area and 128 questionnaires were mailed out; of that amount 84 were returned.
The majority said they do not want to pay a fire tax and others said they already pay for fire service, which, according to research done by the rural district, is incorrect.
“According to the county, they do not pay taxes for fire service,” said Danielle Denczek, ORFD Administrative Assistant at the Tuesday, June 19 meeting.
ORFD Chairwoman of the Board of Directors, Sherry Schlegel, who read the comments written in the questionnaires, said it was possible the homeowners were confusing what they pay in property taxes as payment for fire service in their area. “It seems they’re uninformed out there,” Schlegel said.
Currently, the district responds to approximately 40 calls per year to the Division 1 North area and none of those calls are technically paid for.
Previous chiefs have stated they will simply stop providing service to those areas until this situation is rectified, but that has yet to happen.
In December 2011, an incident in rural Tennessee caught national attention when firefighters watched a residence burn to the ground because the homeowner hadn’t paid the $75 fee for rural fire protection service. The firefighters stated if anyone had been in danger they would’ve assisted regardless of whether the fee had been paid or not. In response to criticism, a statement was made that if firefighters responded to people who didn’t pay for the service, there’d be no incentive to pay, which is a similar situation facing the local rural district.
Capt. Rob Hoyer stated in a previous story about Division 1 North, “If I was receiving free service I wouldn’t want to annex” which points out the raw truth of the matter.
Only 12 percent of the Division 1 North property owners stated they were in favor of annexing, but it would seem the majority are under an assumption that they are a). Already covered by another agency; or b). Going to get service no matter if they pay or not.
The rural district board is choosing to handle this situation with delicate hands but the fact remains that something needs to be done about that area of responsibility.
Fire Chief Steve Mayotte suggested that more thought should be put into the situation before any formal action of cutting off service to that area is done.
“We still need to continue responses out there for now,” agreed director John Bairos.
The suggestion was made to limit the response to that area in the interim while the dilemma was passed to the Administrative Ad-Hoc committee for review and feedback.