Tempers flare at Bell Co. VFD public board meeting

By: Paige Quiggins Email
By: Paige Quiggins Email

They were shut down more than one month ago and officials said that there are no plans to re-open them anytime soon. The Bell County Volunteer Fire Department board met on Jan. 10 to appoint a new president and talk about a new subscriber fee. The meeting quickly got heated as members of the affected communities came to weigh in.

President of the board, Roy Amburgey submitted his formal resignation which was accepted by the board. After adjourning and going into executive session, the board appointed Michael Cupp to replace Amburgey. The meeting was re-opened to the public and tempers flared toward the end of the meeting. Law enforcement officials had to show up when things got loud.

“A large number of people from the Arjay and Colmar communities showed up to get their stations reopened and they were not heard,” said Bell County Judge Executive Albey Brock.

Brock said that the volunteer fire department board is not seeing eye-to-eye with the courts in the way they are doing business.

“We are at an impasse here,” Brock said. The county judge executive attempted to mediate an angry public who could not understand when new board president Michael Cupp continued to re-iterate the fact that the department was a private 501-c 3 entity.

“We believe the taxpayers has given them six million dollars that they have an interest so that is kind of the impasse between the court and the fire department; we say that the people have a say and they do not,” said Brock.

Members of the public expressed their concern for the closing of the two departments along with other issues.

“It frightens me very bad I have a wooden stove in my house and if my house catches a fire than I have no one to help protect it and put it out,” said Linda Warren who lives right behind the old Arjay station.

Brock said that money is not the reason why the departments are closed. He said that the fiscal court made a decision earlier on Jan. 10, the same day as the public meeting, to make sure the citizens of Bell County are covered.

“We offered to reimburse them for all legal expenditures to keep the stations open so there is absolutely no monetary reason to have these stations closed,” said Brock.

Cupp said that if enough of the subscriber’s fees are collected they could look into the possibility of reopening the stations.

The voluntary subscribers fee which took affect this year is $60 a year for a single family dwelling, $75 a year for a farm with a structure, $150 a year for business or multi-family dwelling. Vacant or open land without any structures will be $30 a year.

The fee is voluntary, but it could mean a bill for the property owner’s insurance company. Those who do not subscribe and do not have insurance will be responsible for the bill.

The Bell County Fire Chief Rodney Wilder who was not present at the meeting attempted to submit his resignation, but the board members would not accept it. He is on medical leave until further notice.

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