Two Arkansas legislators hope the state finds a way next year to distribute excess state funds to volunteer fire departments that suffer funding shortages, impacting the purchase and repair of equipment.
The Quail Creek Volunteer Fire Department, which serves 820 people, says it makes it on a $30,000 annual budget, which makes buying common pieces of equipment like a piercing nozzle difficult. Chief Stephen Feyen says that utility and fuel costs consume most of the department’s budget, and the station has no running water.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that state Rep. James Ratliff and state Sen. Greg Standridge want to distribute excess state funds to departments with low ratings from insurance underwriters. The two legislators are working on a plan that would take surplus money collected from the state as a secondary source of money for fire departments and disburse among departments with an Insurance Services Rating of 9 or 10.
Standridge is a co-chairman on the joint rural fire departments study committee in the state Legislature, a volunteer firefighter and an independent insurance agent.
“I know first-hand how these departments struggle,” he said.
They have not determined the best way to fund the plan, but the money would be available to departments with dues collected on property tax bills. Standridge says that it is possible for fire departments to improve their insurance rating by two or three points with a few small changes.
About 900 of Arkansas’ 1,003 fire departments are volunteer-staffed.