Rural fire authority may seek tax increase to fund trucks.

January 4, 2016

scottville_fire_state_street_030714_cBy Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

CUSTER — The Mason County Rural Fire Authority plans to ask tax payers for a .5 mill increase to replace 13 of its trucks that it purchased 20 years ago in the August election, including seven 1998 pumpers and six 2000 tankers. 

Chuck Keller, chairman of the rural fire authority, recently sent a letter to the municipalities that represent the departments. Keller said refurbishing the trucks will cost an estimated $117,500 while replacing the equipment would cost $325,000 per pumper truck with an estimated trade-in value of $25,000 to $50,000 per truck.

“Our options therefore were to refurbish the trucks at a cost of $125,000 to $130,000 with no warranty and aging chassis with the possibility that some or all might need to be replaced in less than 10 years or to purchase new trucks with the life expectancy of 20 years,” Keller said. “It was a ‘no-brainer’ for the board: attempt to purchase new trucks with the funding to come from voters within the authority.”

Keller said based on a home valued at $100,000, the increase would cost $25 annually. Keller said the authority will seek a renewal of its 10 year 1 mill operating revenue.

“Historically the authority has been very prudent financially,” Keller said. “Roughly six years ago the authority was able to refinance $674,000 in debt with West Shore Bank with a reduced interest rate of 2.74%. We paid down $300,000 in principle and by year end 2015 the authority will be debt free.

“If the voters do approve our request on Aug. 2, we will have this fund to cover the larger equipment purchases other than trucks. Each department has gone above and beyond to stay within their budgets each year. The departments regularly complete equipment/fire barn repairs on their own without having to hire outside vendors to complete.”

The Mason County Rural Fire Authority was formed in 1996 after Mason County chose to stop contributing to fire departments. It consists of seven departments: Scottville, Custer Township, Branch Township, Riverton Township, Fountain Area, Free Soil/Meade and Grant Township. The five member authority board consists of members chosen by municipalities they represent.

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