Perry: Fire fee will keep city safer, cheaper

mstucka@macon.comJuly 1, 2014 

PERRY -- The city’s new fire fee should prevent insurance bills from leaping and could bring down homeowners’ insurance rates, Perry officials said Tuesday.

The discussion came after resident Jack James questioned a new $10 monthly bill and claims that average residents’ homeowner insurance rates could have increased $400 to $600 a year. In an unusual turn, Mayor Jimmy Faircloth agreed with James that earlier city leaders began building a fire station without knowing how to staff it.

Fire Chief Joel Gray said the city had been falling behind on insurance safety organization’s standards in several ways, including adding about 10 housing developments that were more than five miles from the city’s nearest -- and then, only -- downtown station. Those residents saw their ISO rating jump from 5 to 10. The higher the ISO rating, the more expensive homeowners’ insurance can be.

However, ISO is also now requiring four firefighters per truck, while the city has never had more than three. That low level of staffing means firefighters hadn’t been able to enter a burning building until a second truck arrives, and that’s happened three times this year alone, Faircloth said.

Those changes could mean every resident’s insurance costs would go up. Gray said he’s been talking every few weeks with someone from the ISO ratings agency.

With money from the fire fee, the city plans to more than double the staffing in its fire department by the end of the year. The city’s downtown station also will return to having two trucks available, while the new station, near Langston and Houston Lake roads, will have a new truck.

The fire fee started this week.

In other business, the City Council voted without opposition to increase the city’s fee schedule by an inflation index of 1.5 percent. The fee schedule starts with alcoholic beverage licenses and ends with rental fees at city parks.

Separately, city officials said they removed signs prohibiting guns from city buildings. A state law that started Tuesday allows people with gun permits to carry firearms into city buildings that don’t have security screening. Recreation officials will be asked to call police officers if they see armed people at a game involving children. Faircloth said he didn’t expect that would happen often, and the intent is to provide reassurance to people without harassing gun owners who are following the law.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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