Murphys fire district asks for aid

January 15, 2003 11:00 pm

By SUNNY LOCKWOOD

The Murphys Fire Protection District Board of Directors hopes to put a special tax on a June ballot to hire firefighters and upgrade equipment.

With a volunteer staff of 28 firefighters, the district responded to 428 calls in 2002.

"This is getting to be too much for volunteers," board member Bill Wakefield said at Wednesday night's board meeting.

The district has three paid employees: one full-time firefighter, a part-time chief and a secretary.

On the district's "wish list," if a new source of funding is found: bring all safety equipment up to date and into good repair; hire two full-time firefighters; and buy and equip a vehicle for medical calls only.

Directors, however, have been told the tax proposal they had prepared for the ballot has to be changed.

Board Chairman John Campbell and interim fire Chief Phil Phillips said the county counsel's office asked the district to change its plan in several ways:

The fire board planned to charge hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfast inns in its district a per-room fee, but County Counsel Skip Batchelder said such a fee is a transient occupancy tax and the district doesn't have the authority to levy such a tax.

The board also wanted to tax each of the 183 units in Murphys Diggins, a mobile home park for residents 55 and older because it generates many of the district's emergency calls for medical aid. Campbell said the county could not approve a per-unit fee. Instead, the district would have to tax land parcels, and Murphys Diggins contains only three such parcels.

"County counsel prefers we keep the tax simple — so much for an occupied parcel, and so much for vacant land," Phillips said.

The problem, Director Vickie Mills said, is that in order for the district to continue operating, the tax might have to be about $150 per parcel, and voters would not approve that.

Campbell said the district will fall $20,000 to $25,000 short of its goal if it can't tax the Diggins units or the hotels and motels.