August 20, 2008 Edition

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WR aldermen discuss ISO rating
and rural fire protection plan

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

With no new or old business on the agenda at their meeting on Aug. 12, Walnut Ridge City Council members were updated by Fire Chief Alan Haskins about plans made in an effort to lower the city's fire rates and to offer affordable fire protection to those who live outside the city limits.

Haskins told the council he has sent in a request for an ISO inspection. The inspectors have 75 days from the date of the letter to come in and do the inspection that can take from three days to a week to complete. Depending on how busy the inspectors are, it may take a month or longer to get their results.

"Walnut Ridge now has an ISO rating of five. We'd like to get it down to a three, but a four is probably what we'll get," Haskins said.

A lower ISO rating would lower insurance rates for every business and homeowner in town, he added. "If the upcoming inspection fails to lower the city's rating to a three, the inspector's report will let us know what we have to do to achieve our goal," explained Haskins.

"We can find out from the report what we need to correct and then ask for a new inspection in a week," he said.

The fire department is also working on a way to provide less expensive fire coverage to rural areas.

"People outside the city aren't a part of a fire protection district," Haskins said.

"If we make a run out there, they have to pay a $500 fee. If they are unlucky enough to have another fire, it will cost a second $500."

Haskins is asking that fire protection fees for rural areas be added to personal property taxes. The rate per household would be approximately $65 or even less, a significantly smaller amount than what it would cost to pay the fire department to make just one run outside the city limits. He discussed the plan with the Lawrence County Quorum Court on Aug. 11.

The Quorum Court has called for a public hearing to discuss the possibility of forming a rural fire district. The meeting will be held at Wallin Agri Aviation, located at 962 Lawrence Road 612, at 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 22, Haskins said.

Alderwoman Paula Haskins told the council she still needs information from them for the city's website. The new site is coming along well, but is not finished, Paula said.

Walnut Ridge Mayor Michelle Rogers informed the council that Ben Brand's family had asked her to convey their heartfelt appreciation to the city's fire department, first responders and the police department for everything they did to assist Brand following a serious automobile accident on Aug. 7.

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