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Putnam commission still debates fire fee hike

WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Putnam County commissioners agree there's a need to raise the county's annual fire fee -- but they still haven't decided yet whether they'll vote for an increase.Firefighters asked county commissioners to approve a 50-percent increase in the county's fire fee last month, less than a request that commissioners denied last year.A meeting will be held at 7 p.m. June 14 at the County Courthouse in Winfield to allow public comment."I want to listen to the community," Commissioner Gary Tillis said Thursday. "The need for an increase is there without a doubt ... but I don't want people to think I've made my mind up already."Tillis and Commissioner Joe Haynes voted down an increase last year, but said the recent reduced request is more likely to win their approval."I don't think we can get around it," Haynes said. "There has to be some raise in the fee."Commissioner Steve Andes, who is president of the county's fire board, was the only vote to approve the increase last year."We took a serious look and cut back half of what we asked for before," Andes said.
The fire board's new plan asks for $360,000 a year compared to the $750,000 request in 2011.The fee, which provides funds for the county's eight volunteer fire departments, hasn't been raised in more than 25 years.If the new plan is approved, a homeowner who pays $25 a year would start paying $37.50 annually.The fee now generates about $700,000 a year. Andes has said twice that amount, $1.4 million, is needed. If a 50 percent raise is granted, the board could take in $1.1 million a year.Reach Kate White at or 304-348-1723.  
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