MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - The newest residents of Memphis live in some pretty fancy homes. They had to pay Shelby County fire fees to make sure if there was a problem, the county fire department would come a runnin’.
Now they’re Memphians, and although that’s a hard thing for many of these folks to say without getting violently ill, they will be protected by the Memphis Fire Department. Their tax money pays for fire protection. It means Shelby County loses close to $800,000 in fire fees as well.
“The annexation was a surprise to us,” says Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell. “We are going to have to find a way to adjust, to recoup that funding. We’ll find a way. We can do it without raising taxes, and without layoffs.”
But when talking about the Shelby County Fire Department, here’s the burning question. Most of the cities and towns in Shelby County have their own fire departments. The only two that don’t are Arlington and Lakeland. If the cities and towns annex areas, then it stands to reason that their departments will cover those areas. Shelby County Fire will have a smaller and smaller role to play.
Mayor Mark Luttrell says it’s simply a matter of time. “We certainly know this is a reality of our fire service, that there will come a time when all of the municipalities will assume most of the responsibility.”
The Mayor thinks there will be a need for the county fire department for at least the next five years, maybe longer. There had been talk a few years ago of merging the Memphis City and Shelby County fire departments. Mayor Luttrell says none of the plans made financial sense to Shelby County.
At least one Shelby County Commission member thinks differently. Steve Mulroy says the county shouldn’t delay the inevitable. “I think we can achieve efficiency by merging right now,” Mulroy says. “We’re going to have to do it eventually.”
There is already a bit of disagreement with commissioners. Republican Terry Roland is absolutely against merging both departments. He says he believes what has been happening recently is a sort of secret conspiracy that some have who are trying to merge both governments. Roland’s less-than-best-friend-forever Mulroy calls the claim, “ridiculous."