Fire Sales Tax Committee in Carter County

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Carter County Commissioners met this morning to appoint a three-member board to serve on a fire sales tax committee. In July, voters passed a quarter-cent sales tax to aide the equipment and training of the fourteen fire departments.

They are expected to receive the check, estimated at $80,000, in March.

This morning, commissioners appointed Doug Williams from District 1 and Lonnie Stewart from District 3 to serve on a committee to oversee funding distribution.

The fourteen fire chiefs first will determine the department needs. Then, the sales tax committee will take their assessment and make a recommendation to the county commissioners, who will have the final say.

Officials say the money won't necessarily be divided evenly but on a needs basis. Some departments, like the Criner Hills Firefighters, fear they will be left out, but they have been getting by since the very beginning.

"When we first organized it wasn't uncommon for us to pool our money to get back to the fire station."

Like Woodford, Fox-Graham, Dillard, and other volunteer fire departments in the county, their fire engines are fueled solely by hamburgers, fries, bake sales, and a few grants if they are lucky. Bunker gear is on others' wish lists.

Although these crews rely solely on donations to run their department, even city crews like Ardmore and Lone Grove are strapped financially.

Ardmore runs on a $2 million budget and Lone Groves does on around $111,000. That's enough to cover salaries, fuel, maintenance, and minimal training. It does not account for new equipment and gear.

"A lot of departments need equipment but need to be trained on that equipment."

That's why commissioners asked voters to pass the sales tax, but they did not indicate how the money would be divvied up.

All area firefighters say when that first check comes in, which could be as much as $125,000, it won't go to waste.

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