An eastern Kentucky volunteer fire department is asking for help from the community to stay afloat. Fire fighters from the West Knox Volunteer Fire Department are suggesting a 50 dollar tax from all property owners they serve, but they are letting people in the community voice their opinions first.
Officials say the 50 dollar tax would apply to about 1,400 land owners in Knox and Laurel counties, and some elderly and disabled people would be exempt. The public meeting was meant to inform the community, but some people were still uncertain about the tax.
Deputy Chief Darryl Baker says without some kind of help, the fire department would be lucky to stay open another two years.
"Over the past six years, we've been going in the red a little bit at a time. This last year was worse because, well it's the same for everybody. Not as many people donate freely because they can't," says Baker. He says if the fire department were to close, insurance rates could go up at least $500 per home in the community, and response time to emergencies would be longer.
Rick Lunsford supports the tax and says, "Without them, there would be a lot more accidents that go unattended for more period of time, somebody be trapped in a home burning."
A lot of the people in this room say they are against the $50 tax, but did not want to speak on camera, but they told me they do not want the tax added to their property tax, and some of them say they just don't have the money this time of year.
Jimmy Powell says 50 dollar a year is worth it. He says his uncle's home caught fire on Valentine's day and the west knox fire crew was on the scene in minutes.
"They never know the feeling of that seeing the flames rolling out of the house, what a gut wrenching feeling that is. So yeah, we're in favor of it. You bet," says Powell.
"There's 34 of us guys and the last thing we want to happen is have the fire department close. We're going to do everything we can to keep that from happening", says Baker.
Many of the people opposed to the tax say they would rather give a donation to help the fire department. There is another meeting Saturday February 21th at 3:00 at the Knox Association of Baptists building in Gray for people to voice their opinions and learn more about the proposed tax.