Low turnout hurts local fire district

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The November 3 elections were highly anticipated and there was record voter turn out in just about every precinct in every state. In stark contrast, the follow up December 5 elections resulted in extremely low if not record low voter turn out. This proved to be extremely disastrous for the Sadie Tiger Bend District Volunteer Fire Department. The $75 parcel fee renewal failed to pass. The parcel fee is a fee that is assessed to every parcel of land with a structure. This fee helps with acquiring, constructing, maintaining and operating fire protection facilities in the Sadie Tiger Bend District.

Only 60 people turned out to vote in this district. That equals 12 percent. Of that 12 percent, 35 voted against the fee renewal and 25 voted for it. This failure took a big portion of the fire department budget away starting in the year 2022. The immediate solution for this small fire and emergency district was to cut the EMS program. “There is so much expense just to keep the fire trucks running, so the only option was to cut the EMS program,” said Terry Dumas, Assistant Fire Chief.

Cutting the EMS program allows the department to work fire scenes and motor vehicle accidents only. “That’s all we are going to be able to afford to do to keep the fire station going until we get the funds,” said Amanda Carr, EMS Director for the Sadie Tiger Bend District. “There’s a lot of people that are going to be doing without,” said Carr.

These tax and fee renewals are what keep many outlying and small fire district stations running. The huge expense of keeping the trucks operational is almost impossible for most volunteer departments to maintain without some type of fee or tax in place. “ I feel for them,” said Billy Jung, Farmerville Fire Chief. “It is necessary for a department to have income no matter the size. Equipment is expensive and income is crucial,” said Jung.

This renewal failure also affects the town of Marion as the Sadie Tiger Bend department was providing EMS services to the citizens of Marion. “Hopefully we can look into getting our own first responders here in Marion and not have to depend on neighboring fire departments,” said Danny Smith, Mayor of Marion.

Volunteers in the Sadie Tiger Bend District say that despite losing the EMS program, they are going to do everything they can to get it back on the ballot in upcoming elections.