County Council Committee Discusses Revisions to Burn Ordinance

Daniel Prince

Committee also discusses charging deployment fee for fire protection

The Union County Council Committee on Planning and Development met Monday afternoon to discuss the proposed county burn ordinance and an ordinance to establish deployment fees for fire protection. Council member David Sinclair wanted to confirm that the ordinance would not pertain to burning yard waste. The ordinance does regulate how far from a property the fire must be but does not regulate its size or anything. Recreational fire uses, such as fire pits, campfires, and the like are regulated in size. The county fire marshal would be in charge of declaring burning bans in the county if conditions dictate.

One thing the committee members wanted to see the ordinance address is the penalties involved for violations. Dr. Flood said there needs to be room for discretion to be used by the officer or the magistrate. The committee agreed to include wording in the ordinance providing for a warning for the first offense, a $100 penalty for a second offense, and a $200 penalty for third and subsequent offenses.

The committee will receive a final draft of the ordinance to review at their next meeting, but they did vote to recommend the ordinance for third reading by the full Union County Council. WBCU News will request a copy of the ordinance prior to that to let our listeners know some of the specifics of the ordinance. Supervisor Frank Hart said the ordinance would cover the unincorporated parts of the county. If Jonesville, Lockhart, and Carlisle wanted the ordinance to apply in their municipalities, they would have to pass the ordinance there.

The other ordinance that was discussed was to implement deployment fees for fire protection. Dr. Flood said in speaking to the fire chiefs, its main purpose is to recoup money for the departments that is covered in insurance policies, and mostly in the cases of large business fires and that sort of thing. Flood said the chiefs stated they had no interest in pursuing such fees for those with no insurance, but legally, the ordinance cannot read that way. Council member David Sinclair expressed opposition to the ordinance, saying he felt like taxpayers already pay for fire service through taxes, and this seems like a way to double-dip. Dr. Flood pointed out that the same thing happens with EMS. Sinclair said he wanted to know where the county will draw the line.

How the fees would be allocated also came up for discussion. The ordinance currently states that the fees would be stored in separate accounts for each district, but Dr. Flood said the chiefs wanted the money pooled and split among all the departments. He said that would be a benefit to the smaller departments who don’t run as many calls and would allow them to get a little extra money that could go to an extra set of turnout gear or other needed equipment. He said it definitely would not make enough money to cover operations at a fire department, but it would be a helpful supplement.

How the fee could be waived was another point of discussion. Flood stated a committee of three be appointed, and the committee decided it could be composed of the chief of the district, the board chair of the district, and the fire coordinator.

Replacement of fire department equipment also came up. Council member Ben Ivey wanted to ensure that any equipment damaged due to negligence of fire personnel or normal wear and tear would not be charged to the homeowner or business owner. Flood stated that at least half the departments in the county if not more have insurance on their equipment, and that would kick in to cover such losses.
When it came time to vote on whether to recommend the ordinance to the full council, Dr. Flood voted for it, David Sinclair voted against it, and Ben Ivey stated he wanted to see the ordinance with the proposed changes before he would cast a vote. Supervisor Frank Hart made note of the changes and said he would bring the proposed ordinance back to the committee.

The Planning and Development Committee will meet again on Monday, November 29, following another committee meeting scheduled at 5:30 p.m.

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