Columbus fire speaks to county on tax increase 

Published 11:30 pm Thursday, May 9, 2019

Fire chief says department does much more than respond to fires 


COLUMBUS—The Columbus Fire Department requested a 4-cent tax increase for next year’s budget and officials have visited the town and now the county to discuss the need.  

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The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Monday and heard from Columbus Fire Chief Tony Priester during citizen comments.  

Priester said the Columbus Fire Department is much more than for fires. He spoke of employees and volunteers cutting trees out of roads and working a lot of medical calls, including lift assists.  

Priester said there are also several programs the fire department has implemented to help citizens and spoke of certifications to inspect and install child safety seats, CPR certifications for local businesses and citizens, giving out life packets when they go on medical calls and installing smoke alarms throughout the district. He said they would be going door to door on Saturday to install smoke alarms, which is a free service.  

The Columbus Fire Department also recently held a bicycle rodeo for children at the high school on bicycle safety.  

Priester said his department is doing an average of 5-7 lift assists a day lately and his employees often get attacked by people, including one by a drunk driver.  

“So, we face a lot of stuff,” Priester told commissioners.  

Priester also spoke of the Columbus Fire Department’s presence on social media. He said they have over 5,000 followers and people are immediately notified when things occur. He said there are 18,000-20,000 people who know what’s going on in our county because of the department’s social media posts.  

Priester spoke of the need for a tax increase and said the Columbus Fire Department protects $65 million worth of government and nonprofit property that the fire department receives no tax money for, which is a strain.  

Polk County Manager Marche Pittman presented his recommended budget for commissioners on Monday. The recommended budget includes a 3-cent tax increase for the Columbus Fire Department.  

“Thank you guys for coming out here and talking about this,” said commissioner vice chair Myron Yoder. “You guys do a tremendous job. They do a lot of work that a lot of people don’t hear about.”  

County commissioners will hold budget work sessions on May 20 and 21 to talk about the proposal, which also includes a 2-cent property tax increase for the whole county.