Columbus fire asking for tax increase
Department’s call volume has increased 111 percent since 2009
COLUMBUS—The Columbus Fire Department is asking for a 4-cent tax increase for fiscal year 2019-2020 after an increase in call volume of 111 percent since 2009.
Columbus Fire Chief Tony Priester spoke with Columbus Town Council on Thursday regarding the request.
The Columbus Fire Department answered 709 calls in 2009 and 1,499 calls in 2018.
Priester said already this year his department has had 415 calls and have had an increasing number of lift assists. He said three calls on Thursday alone were going to a doctor’s office to help someone get in a chair.
Priester said the call volumes are increasing and they are out of room at the station, which was built in 1992. He said there are two trucks sitting outside and they are out of storage and have to replace a tanker.
Priester also said his department is going for medium or heavy rescue certification in the next few months and volunteers are hard to get.
“The only way to get it is to get more paid staff,” Priester said.
Columbus Fire Department currently has two paid staff per shift now and wants to increase that to three paid staff.
Priester said the department gets tied up on calls on the interstate and has never missed a call. He also said they are responding to calls out in the county when others cannot.
“We have got to respond to those calls,” he said. “We are dedicated to serving our citizens.”
Priester also spoke of equipment that needs to be replaced, including $2,000 per person turnout gear that is at its 10-year lifespan and new radios because the county is switching to digital.
“We’re at a point where we have to move forward and got to have money to do that,” Priester said.
He also said the Columbus Fire Department protects over $65 million worth of property that the town gets no tax money for, including government property and nonprofits.
The Columbus Fire Department will request the 4-cent tax increase to both the town and the county board of commissioners.