SPRINGHILL – If House Bill 151 passes the legislature in the coming legislative session, then the residents of Springhill will see an extra $4 on their water bill.
Rep. Gene Reynolds, District 10, pre-filed the bill before the session begins in April. Springhill residents already pay a $4 service charge for fire protection, and the bill, if passed, would tack on an additional $4 per meter, per household, totaling $8. For one water customer, that will total $96 per year they would pay for fire protection.
If a property owner has not had water service for more than one year, the service charge, in the annual amount, would be added to the Webster Parish tax rolls and collected as the ad valorem taxes are collected.
Fire Chief Billy Rasberry said the fee has not been raised since the early 1990s, and with the rising cost of fire protection, they need the boost in funds. He said adding the $4 service fee would help them make much-needed purchases for equipment and a new fire truck.
“This $8 will hire drivers,” he said. “That way we always have drivers at the fire station. We are mirroring the City of Minden. We’re trying to put three people per shift, that way we have three drivers per truck. It’s also a cost of doing business and gives the city more service.”
Webster Parish Fire District 11 has three fire stations, Central Station in Springhill, Station 3 on Percy Burns Road and Station 2 on 14th Street. WPFD 11 is from the Bossier Parish line to Dorcheat to the east, and from the Arkansas state line south to the Town of Cullen.
Rasberry said there has been a decline in volunteer firefighters. The volunteers they do have work during the day, and having paid drivers guarantees swift response time in case of fire. SFD has four paid men, and this will allow them to possibly hire five more. He also wants to see the four paid firefighters get a raise; they currently make minimum wage, he said.
They plan to purchase a new fire truck. The department has nine in its fleet, and three need to be replaced, the chief said. One is a 1990 model, the second is a 1992 model, and these are the two immediate replacements; the third will be the purchase of a refurbished truck to save money.
The additional fee will support fire prevention programs for the children in the district as well as the implementation a new program of inspections, he said.
More importantly, the service charge will allow the department to purchase new equipment for the firefighters.
“Firefighting equipment is not cheap,” Rasberry said. “To outfit one guy is $12,000 minimum. That’s being very conservative. The fire trucks are half a million a pop. I’m just trying to bring the fire department to where I think the service needs to be for this city.”
Currently, SFD has about $350,000 in annual revenue. If the bill passes, it would give the department an estimated $200,000 to $250,000 more.
In five years, SFD has gone from a Class 7 to a Class 3, and “we’re going to get Class 2 the next time we get rated. That, in turn, is saving people way more money on their homeowners insurance. In the last five years, we’ve taken care of our priorities, and it’s time to take care of our city a little bit better,” he said.