Fire Assessment Fee Voted Down
On Tuesday night, Gainesville commissioners had a change of heart and voted against the fees.
Gainesville Fire Chief Bill Northcutt wants some improvements to fire rescue facilities. But, commissioners cut a potential $900,000 from his budget for next year.
"We are not being proposed for any cuts," said Northcutt. "So, the services we provide for fire rescue are going to continue business as usual."
But others let out a sigh of relief. Pastor Larry Reimer says the proposed fees would have cost his church about $1300 a year.
"Just last week, we gave that much money to St. Francis House, because they had run out of food," said Reimer. "So, organizations -- places like that that we give money to would suffer if we had to use our funds for that purpose."
And as a homeowner, Reimer is fine with seeing a hike in his property taxes.
Commissioners are working on the city's budget for the next two years this week. The end product set for Monday night likely will be a higher millage rate given the dropped fire fees proposal and near two million dollar cut from the state. Still even though the city gave up on the fire fees citywide, they still could go after UF last month. Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan sent a letter to UF President Bernie Machen, calling for talks about charging UF for fire services. But, the city's received no response.
"If UF says 'sorry, we're still not interested,' we will have an option. And I entertain this very seriously. Of saying: 'well, then we're informing you that four years from now, we will no longer be providing those fire services. And you will be providing them yourself."
UF Spokesperson Janine Sikes told me they have not responded to the mayor's letter. She would not comment on the city's threat to pull services. City officials say Gainesville Fire Rescue spends almost three million dollars a year answering calls to UF's campus.
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