By Ken Ross, Managing Editor
The Cherokee City Council invited public comment at the Tuesday meeting regarding possible fees for fire calls, accident calls and building inspections as a means for supplementing the cost of operating the fire department.
Ken Walters took a different position regarding the fire department than what has been expressed by citizens at previous council meetings.
"You made the right decision the first time and you should have stood by it," Walters said, referring to the councils original plan to eliminate two driver/dispatcher positions while increasing the fire chief from a part-time to a full-time position.
Following numerous comments from citizens opposed to the elimination of fire department driver/dispatchers, the council backed off on the decision, instead eliminating the part-time fire chief position and maintaining both driver/dispatchers. The proposed budget was made in anticipation of another $36,250 of additional revenue.
Potential sources mentioned for this revenue included fees for fire calls, accident calls and building inspections. The city is restricted by state law on how much can be assessed in taxes for the general fund.
"I'm not sure we can raise taxes. We're at the maximum we can be, right Deb?" Ron Johnson, council member, said at this week's meeting.
"Yes," Deb Taylor, city clerk/treasurer, responded.
"The level of spending for public safety should never be based on how much can be raised through fees and fines," Walters said. He called using anticipated fees a gamble, relying on fires and accidents in order to balance the city's budget.
"I've said before that there wouldn't be any fires to collect fees on," Doug Woods, council member and assistant fire chief, said, "The fees are a compromise that wouldn't completely resolve the matter but would give us some time to work out a longer term solution."
Marty Zauhar, council member, said "Nobody showed up at the meetings and said you did it right."
"We meet every other week and hear people tell us what we're doing is wrong. People are welcome to provide positive solutions," Johnson said.
Strickland responded to questions regarding the effect of the fees on insurance. He said that it wouldn't effect the city's overall insurance rating and that the fee would apply toward a policy holders deductible.
Steve Fassler spoke in favor of using fees in support of fire department services. He compared it to smokers paying more for health insurance because smokers have more health insurance claims.
Mayor Dennis Henrich cut the discussion off, saying the time of discussion already exceeded the 15 minutes referred to on the agenda and that the matter had been thoroughly commented on at previous meetings.