News 12 First at Five; September 2, 2008
AIKEN CTY, S.C. --- With the rising fuel costs, fire departments in Aiken County are feeling the pinch. Soon, you could be feeling the pinch too in some parts of the county.
The County Council is looking at charging people and businesses more. Some say they'll pay it if they have to...others say it's ridiculous.
The grass is getting a cut on Levette Dunbar's sister's house. Soon, her budget could be seeing a cut too.
"You have other bills to pay. It's really hard. It's really hard right now," says Levette.
Hard for her and hard for some fire departments - like Levette's Silver Bluff Department.
"If the service is worth it, I'm willing to pay it," says Levette. "But, if they're willing to wait, I'm willing for that too!"
Silver Bluff is asking for a tiered fire fee, based on the value of your home. That would replace the current flat fee of $80. The fees would start at $85 and increase $15 for every $50,000 that your house is worth. Levette's house is worth between $100,000 and $150,000. That means she would have to pay $115 now, instead of $80.
"I think it should stay where it's at for now," says Levette.
The fees change when you hit $500,001 to $750,000 - they would be charged $235. $750,001 to $1 million would be charged $250. $1 million to $1.25 million would be charged $265. Above that, you would be charged $280.
She also doesn't like the idea of tiered fees.
"Other folks in other areas have more expensive homes, you don't know what their expenses are either," says Levette.
Balbag Khera is an owner of a Clearwater gas station. He could soon be facing a $500 fire free increase from $250 to $750.
"I think it's ridiculous. $500 is a lot of money in this economy," says Balbag.
The fee would affect businesses that needs hazmat.
"The business is going to pass that cost onto the consumer," says Khera.
"Good services, I'm going to accept it. Yeah, because you need good services," says Levette.
Several other towns are looking at increases, too. Outside the city limits of New Ellenton, there's a proposed fee increase of $20. In Couchton, they plan to change their fee scale with about a 5% increase. In Bath, some fees could go up for businesses by $25. In Clearwater, all homes in and out of the village will see a $6 increase. There's also a fee planned for some land in Windsor.
The meeting is on Tuesday night at 6 P.M. and we'll be following the story tonight on News 12 at 11 o'clock. Check back here for the latest in the vote coming tonight.