Sunday, August 21, 2011

21 AUG 11: Fee Fi Fo Fum

At least they're honest enough at Phenix City Council to admit they're raising taxes. They simply aren't giving people much time to think about it or discuss it. An increase first makes news on Monday, then gets approved on Tuesday - faster than Mayor Sonny Coulter can organize a protest march.

SUNDAY SOAPBOX: It's not being a called a tax, but something close to it in Lee County has a reader concerned....

Once again that d**n phrase" Fire Fee Increase" has popped up. Be it used to rid someone from a control position at a Fire Department to the ones on the west end of the County using it as "Terrorist Threats" to get their way, Many Lee County Citizens are going to have it thrown in their face until that secret" Special Election" is held, this is complete "BS"

Volunteer means different things, most agree that if you Volunteer to do a service or a simple act you are doing this without a demand for pay or expect payment once done, This "Fire Fee Increase" has too many twisted sentences in it - Try reading it, A volunteer under this could be paid from the same funds as used to buy Equipment and trucks. If you pay one or two to answer calls and not the rest that have responded or on standby, you have really just whizzed on all that are "Volunteers". If you want to leave it a "Volunteer" Fire Department system, then change the wording so that it is Chrystal Clear as to what the Money is used for and stop the back stabbing for the ones that are true "Volunteers".

If the current "Fire Fee" is not renewed in the next say 2 yrs, The Fire Departments under this would seek other means to collect funds to operate Equipment - you know , like the way it was! Some of the departments have sat back and not worked with or refused to work with the Community's since - Major fault here

Open Meetings have to happen whether the Departments Like it or not. Full Disclosure of all Funds on a Regular Basis.

This is where the "Fire Fee" Bill needs to be either dropped as is or complete restructure of the way the money is collected and used and make it clear to all and stop all this "If you don't give us your money - we will not respond".

I'm going to assume the writer is NOT referring to a volunteer "Bomb Squad" with that shorthand....

Lee County Commissioner Gary Long admitted to WRBL this past week a special election is planned on increasing the fire fee from 25 to 75 dollars per year. There's a novel idea for making that $500 fee proposed by the Columbus Charter Review Commission look outlandish.

But another Lee County fire department described a proposed 75-dollar annual fee as a bargain. The chief of Southwest Lee County in Auburn says the national average for such service is $150. So this is another example of how being "behind the times" in rural Alabama actually can be a good thing.

Members of the Friendship Volunteer Fire Department in Smiths Station apparently decided they had to remove the fire chief to gain support for a higher annual fee. But several e-mails to us this summer indicated it was needed to end nepotism in the department. The family that fought fires together practically was evacuated together.

The Friendship firefighters in Smiths Station met behind closed doors. And since it's a volunteer department, that means it's exempt from the Alabama Open Meetings Act. Perhaps Tea Party members should switch to fire axes, if they want to protest that.

This writer did NOT send us a copy of the proposed Fire Fee Increase, and I couldn't find it posted at the Lee County government website. But the idea of a "paid volunteer" admittedly sounds a little strange. Maybe not for football players at the University of Miami, but in this area....

In other East Alabama counties, volunteer fire departments raise money in an old-fashioned way. They sell barbecue plates several weekends a year. If they're involved in "pork barrel" spending, at least people get some personal pork in return for it.

A much smaller fee has people in Columbus grumbling right now. We mentioned Thursday Wells Fargo customers could write more checks to get around the three-dollar monthly debit card fee. But one reader answered....


Don't forget the price of using more checks to pay your bills. The three dollars per month may still be relatively cheap. Enjoy your blog.


Kelley Earhart

The hosts of "The Wall Street Journal This Morning" on WDAK radio made this point as well. But I've been able to avoid a quick emptying of my check box by putting as many bills as I can on credit cards -- and all my cards have no annual fee. Well, at least they don't for now. But they ARE from big banks, so anything could happen when the September bill comes.

In the last 30 days, I've only needed to write ten checks to pay my bills. That number would drop even more, if more utilities followed the example of Columbus Water Works and accepted credit cards. You'd think Georgia Power would appreciate a "charge" card after all these years....

But come to think of it, Wells Fargo's upcoming debit card is "only" three dollars a month. Some people have memberships which cost even more per month. Trust me from experience - you don't really need to be part of the college alumni association, and the telemarketing calls only come about twice a year.

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