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Hill County firefighters seek help from taxpayers

Posted at 8:44 PM, Mar 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-06 23:33:47-05

Firefighters in rural Hill County will ask voters this spring for more tax money to buy new equipment.

They call their current situation serious and say they need help.

Every time James Wantland puts on his fire gear, he takes a bit of a risk.

His gear doesn't exactly fit right.

Some of his fellow firefighters use gear that's past its expiration date, meaning it doesn't provide the same protection as newer gear.

"It's got a date for a reason and I really don't want to test it any more than I have to," Wantland said.

So that's why, the leaders of Hill County Emergency Services District #1, want voters to approve a hike in their property taxes by 10 cents in the May election.

The Referendum will appear on the May 4 ballot.

Voters like Eileen Winter though, remain skeptical about higher taxes.

"I'm not pleased. We're on fixed incomes," she said.

But district President Clarence Pressley says, firefighters simply can't or shouldn't use some of the gear, because of coats with holes in them, and air bottles that have outlived their usefulness.

So, he and the board have offered voters a deal.

"We really don't want to go to 10 cents right now. We have passed a resolution, saying if the taxpayers will grant us the tax increase, we have guaranteed that we will stay at 6 cents or less for the next two years," Pressley said.

He says the improvements should provide other benefits for all.

Pressley says, with better equipment, the 16 departments in rural Hill County can get lower fire ratings and that can translate into lower insurance premiums for homeowners.

In the meantime, the volunteer firefighters in Hill County say they'll stay dedicated, but a little more careful.

"We'd still go to the calls and we'd do what we gotta do, but we rely on the equipment to keep us safe," said Wantland.

That's given even the most skepical voter, something to think about.

"If I could see proof from another county or something I'd be glad to look at it and possibly vote for it," Winter said.

Because she realizes keeping the firefighters safer, could keep her safer too.