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Monett Rural Fire Association Pushes for Tax Levy to Become District

MONETT, Mo. -- The Monett Rural Fire Association hopes to become a district and is asking for a "yes" vote on a 30 cent tax levy on April 8. The Monett Rural Fire Association currently takes in $70 a year from residents in parts of Barry and Lawrence Counties to operate, but it wants to become a tax-based district. Currently, only about 50% of the people the Fire Department serves pay their dues.
MONETT, Mo. --  Imagine your house catching fire and firefighters not being able to battle the flames.  That's a reality for people in the Monett area who don't pay their dues.  It's also one reason why the Monett Rural Fire Association hopes to become a district.  It's asking for a "yes" vote on a 30 cent tax levy on April 8.

The Monett Rural Fire Association currently takes in $70 a year from residents in parts of Barry and Lawrence counties to operate-- but it wants to become a tax-based district.

Currently, about 50% of the people the fire department serves are paying their dues.

"Right now, all our money comes from dues paying members," says Monett Rural Fire Association President Paul Wimsatt.  "And right now, out of the area we cover in southern Lawrence County and northern Barry County, we only have about 48% of people paying those dues."

The Monett Rural Fire Association covers about 95 square miles total between the two counties.  It's made up of 21 firefighters, all volunteer.

"Firefighters don't like to pull up to a scene and not be able to fight the fire," says Wimsatt.  "That's not what they signed up to be firefighters for."

However, it's a reality in some parts of Monett where residents aren't paying their dues.  Over half the people are not currently covered.  Once or twice a year firefighters respond to homes where the owners haven't paid.

"What happens then?" KOLR10 News asked.

"If there is a life in danger, we will try to go in and do everything we can to get that person out of there," says Wimsatt.  "But if there's not, then we pull back-- we don't fight the fire."

Right now, residents have signs in front of their homes to show their dues have been paid-- but if the association becomes a tax-based district, firefighters won't have to worry about looking out for the signs.

"Everybody will be covered," says Wimsatt.  "They won't have to ask those questions.  It's just, don't even look for the sign, you go in and start fighting fire right away."

The levy, if approved, would tax residents 30 cents per $100 assessed value.

"A normal three bedroom home out in the country on a lot, no acreage or anything, we figured would be up to about $52.50 a year," says Wimsatt.  "That doesn't include land that goes with it or any other toys they may have."

The money from the levy would also help with upgrading equipment and training.

"We are based on dues only," says Wimsatt.  "So if we keep losing dues, at some point it's going to cease to exist-- and we won't have money to get the trucks out of the station."

Wimsatt says this levy will help keep all residents in their area safe.
 
"This way everybody pays through their taxes," he says.  "And everybody is covered."

The Monett Rural Fire Association is holding a chili supper at 6 p.m. Saturday, March 29, at Fire Station 1 on County Road in Monett.

Fire officials will be on hand to answer any questions about why they want to become a district and what the money will be used for.
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