Meeting for the first time in a number of years, the Intergovernmental Council of Jefferson County voted Tuesday to split state funds that two volunteer fire departments don’t qualify for with the remaining fire departments in the county.
Karen Blevins, the director of the Office of Emergency Management, who arranged the meeting, said the council is composed of the mayors of all the cities and towns in the county, along with the county judge. They have the responsibility of distributing Act 833 funds, which are collected by the state from insurance companies and designated for fire protection from both volunteer and paid-staff fire departments.
Eddie Anderson, who is the chief of the Altheimer Volunteer Fire Department and chairman of the Mutual Aid group of volunteer firefighters, said that during the last legislative session, lawmakers considered a proposal to reallocate funds that departments who didn’t meet the training qualifications would have received.
He said that this year, there was about $600,000 sitting in the fund.
“I’ve been told it is going to be brought back up (in the Legislature), and this time it’s going to pass,” Anderson said, explaining that the money allocated for Jefferson County is collected in the county. “It’s our money.”
Blevins said there are two volunteer departments in the county— Island Harbor and Tucker — that didn’t meet the training requirements and had just under $25,000 in the fund. Most of that money, just over $21,000, was from Tucker, which has not met training requirements in four years.
A formula adopted a number of years ago called for the Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services Department, which serves the largest number of households in the county, to receive the largest percentage of the Act 833 funds, with the remainder to be split between the volunteer departments.
After being told that, Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington suggested that the money be split equally between all the departments so that the volunteer departments would benefit more. She then made that suggestion in the form of a motion that was adopted unanimously.
The Quorum Court will have to approve the actions of the group.