Commission denies firefighters’ proposal

Published 6:37 pm Monday, March 10, 2014

By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal

The Lowndes County Commission voted Monday to turn down a proposal from the Lowndes County Association of Volunteer Fire Departments to allow the Association to distribute ad valorem taxes to volunteer fire departments in the county.

County Commissioner Carnell McAlpine said, “We will consider the request (proposal) that they did present as to the number of runs and the distribution of the money, but we intend on taking care of that ourselves. I think we do have the capability to do that.”

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Association President Rodney Rudolph, however, called the decision a “slap in the face.”

The county commission voted to deny the proposal with all voting “yes” to deny except County Commissioner Brenson Crenshaw, who said he abstained based on his membership in the Association.

As it stands, the funds are distributed by the Lowndes County Commission to the volunteer fire departments.

Under the proposal, presented by Association President Rodney Rudolph, the funds would go to the Association and each volunteer fire department would get 50 percent of the funds. The remaining 50 percent would be disbursed by the Association based on calls made by departments “that are not the primary responding agency” in an area of jurisdiction.

The Association made the proposal to the commission a year ago. And on March 24 of this year, a large number of volunteer firefighters showed up at the commission meeting to get an answer.

Lowndes County Commission Chairman Robert Harris said following that meeting, “We’re still taking it under consideration, gathering information, trying to make a sound and just decision.”

Monday, McAlpine said, “Mr. Chairman, I would like to make a motion that we deny the request (proposal) by the Rodney Rudolph/Volunteer Firefighters Association that we turn the money over to the volunteer fire departments for disbursement.

“I move that we don’t do that, that the money stays as it is with the commission. That we do maybe look at the allocation based on the number of runs that they achieve.”

County Commissioner Joseph Barganier clarified, “That we leave it in the hands of the commission,” and seconded the motion.

Crenshaw said he was not taking part in the decision and leaving it up to the other commissioners.

County Commissioner Dickson Farrior asked that the commission be provided a schedule of runs by the fire departments “so we can have a feel for it.”

When contacted for comment, Rudolph said the Association is “very disappointed with the county commisison.”

He said, “The Association has proposed a fair and equal way to distribute the funds.”

He said, “This is a slap in our face and a total lack of respect. We risk our lives and get out of bed in the middle of the night to help others, and this is how the commission acts.”

He said, “We hope the people in the county will stand behind those of us who volunteer our time to help them.”