Opinions Vary at Fire Protection District Town Hall Meeting

By Jeremy Coumbes on March 31, 2021 at 9:15am

Opinions continue to vary on a proposed rural Jacksonville Fire Protection District.

That was evident at an informational town hall meeting held last night at the Jacksonville Community Center in Community Park. The meeting was held by the Jacksonville Fire Department with Chief Doug Sills conducting the presentation.

Representatives from some surrounding fire departments were in attendance to voice their concerns about cuts the new district would impose on their existing service area.

Chapin Volunteer Fire Department Chief Scott Pahlmann said he wished there had been more communication before it was placed on the ballot, but he was not opposed to the formation of a district. Representatives from both Chapin and South Jacksonville say their departments would take a big hit to their budgets if the district passes and new lines are established.

Chief Sills says the District would continue to work with neighboring departments and through continued intergovernmental agreements could allow neighboring districts to both serve and recoup revenue from areas within the Jacksonville District that could be responded to faster by the other departments.

Bryce McCormick of Rural Jacksonville says he is one of the original petitioners for the current proposal and says he was prompted to look into forming a district after he moved out of Chapin and into a rural area that he says is one of many “no man’s land” areas between service providers.

I would have liked to pay for Jacksonville fire protection, just because it’s a career department. It provides EMS care at the ALS level. The only method for me to do that was to follow through on what had been started years previous and that was the formation of fire districts for Chapin, Jacksonville, Ashland, and Arenzville, that whole area.

I knew Ashland was working on it and decided to see with Chief Sills what else could be done. I found out that it just needed to have petitions in the proposed district. Chief Sills worked on figuring out drive times, response times, who could get where quickest, and that’s kind of what the driving force was for the formation of the district. In addition, it can’t go into Arenzville’s district, Ashland’s proposed district, Alexander’s district, or Woodson’s district. Those boundaries were already set so those were pretty easy to do.”

the proposed district would allow the Jacksonville Fire Department to provide EMS and ALS to the county as well as more inclusive fire protection services, according to Sills. Morgan County voters go to the polls in less than a week to decide the fate of the district during the consolidated election on April 6th.