Increased tax fee to improve Florence County first responders

New fee to improve Florence County fire departments
Howe Springs Fire District 1 Station
Howe Springs Fire District 1 Station

FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - First responders will see an increased budget soon in Florence County, and that's because council just passed a 'user fee' tax for those who live in the county and own a car and property. This would be a combined $33 increase.

The fire chief here at Howe Springs for the past 20 years said almost 75 percent of the fire departments are manned by volunteers, but support like the reserve funding increase from county council allows them to continue to save lives.

Florence County Council passed the ordinance at Thursday night's meeting 8 to 0. The goal is mainly to help first responders, and by doing so, charge a service fee of $23 for fire and rescue - that's only if you live in the unified fire district. There is also a $10 service fee for every single owned car in the county, not just those who live in the fire district.

Kent Caudle, Vice Chairman for Florence County Council, explained, "But that's spread out more because there are more cars, you know when you add in West Florence and South Lynches, that adds a lot of vehicles, so we could do a lower fee, but on the fire service it had to be a higher fee because of the two fire services that are not in the unified district."

Caudle said most of the service calls for fire and EMS are from car accidents, so those fees are what county council wants to improve upon.

Billy Dillon, the Howe Springs Fire Chief, said, "The way it will impact us is some of the fire departments in the unified fire district, the Florence County unified fire district needed some increase in their budgets. Hopefully this increase in the taxes will strengthen them. We sometimes at Howe Springs call for their resources for help."

Dillon added, "Because of what the county is doing, we're able to update our trucks, we're dropping insurance ratings, and because of raising some taxes, we're causing an effect of lowering some insurance ratings for some citizens around Florence County."

The unified fire district is made up of six smaller fire stations that combined back in 2013. They are: Howe Springs, Hannah Salem, Johnsonville, Olanta, Timmonsville and Windy Hill.

Howe Springs Fire covers 170 square miles throughout the county, making it one of the largest. Dillon said, "We've taken the place of a lot of the rescue squads that used to be around years ago, the fire service has. When we do the automobile extrication, we do the hazard mitigation of fluid leaks and any other hazardous material that the trucks may have been holding, and then we're also training and doing patient care."

Dillon said that's to serve as EMT's too, because there are no ambulances in their territory.

The increased funding will go just towards the unified fire district, along with the smaller ems and rescue squads..

Click here. to look more into the Florence County budget.

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