New VFD funding formula approved

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LIVINGSTON – A new formula to divide the county's rural fire protection funds among the local volunteer fire departments was given final approval Tuesday by the Polk County Commissioners Court.

The plan was proposed by the local fire chiefs based on four criteria and was given the unanimous stamp of approval by commissioners.

The move to come up with a new way to divide the almost $172,000 budgeted by the county came earlier this summer when County Judge Sydney Murphy suggested that the division be based on the number of square miles each VFD covers and the number of rural structures it protects. A third criteria, the number of rural fire calls each department makes was later added to the proposal.

A meeting between Murphy and the local fire chiefs ended with a final plan based on the county's five-year Hazard Mitigation Plan.

Onalaska VFD Chief Jay Stutts, who presented the proposal to commissioners, noted the local fire chief were "all in agreement" and believe the new proposal was a fair means of dividing the county's money.

Under the plan, 10 Polk County VFDs will receive a base payment of $6,000 with the remaining $112,000 being divided based on the number of rural structures, the value of those structures and the square miles in each department's zone.

The numbers would be adjusted when a new Hazard Mitigation Plan is approved. The current plan runs until 2017 and work will soon begin to come up with a new document.

In the past, in addition to the individual allocations to the departments, the county also maintained a separate line item for fire training and field improvements, which totaled almost $26,000. In the future, these training funds will be included with the funds allocated each year to the departments.

Because of the addition of the training money, all of the VFDs will receive more money next year than they have in the past, with the big winner being the Onalaska VFD. That department's allocation will jump by $9,142.17 to a total of $24,581.85.

The department which will receive the smallest increase will be the Corrigan VFD, which will gain only $3.44 for a total of $21,886.79.

It was noted that Corrigan's allocation is expected to increase in 2017 when the new Corrigan OSB timber manufacturing plant opens. That oriented strand board mill is being built just outside of Corrigan and would substantially boost the value of the rural structures in that department's protection zone.

Also, for the first time the Chester VFD will receive Polk County funds. Although located in Tyler County, a portion of that department's protection zone crosses the county line into Polk County. Under the plan, Chester will receive $779.35.

Other departments and their 2016 allocations include:
-- Livingston VFD: $41,313.82, which is up by $52.82 from last year.
-- Goodrich VFD: $13,218.67, which is up by $1,160.39 from last year.
-- South Polk County VFD: $10,196.52, which is up by $1,840.59 from last year.
-- Segno VFD: $11,491.30, which is up by $1,559.81 from last year.
-- Scenic Loop VFD: $17,381.35, which is up by $5,323.07 from last year.
-- Alabama-Coushatta Indian Nation VFD: $11,300.59, which is up by $2,944.66 from last year.
-- Indian Springs VFD: $11,248.16, which is up by $2,892.23 from last year.
-- Holiday Lake Estates VFD: $8,365.66, which is up by $9.73 from last year.