ROGERS, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Beaver Lake Fire Department stopped its plan to increase fire dues to pay for a fire protection district on Wednesday.
Community members packed a Benton County Quorum Court meeting Tuesday night to express their concern with the plan. Chief John Whisenant said the department and its board listened to the community and decided to change its course. The fire department had previously filed a petition for the Benton County Quorum Court to consider approving the fire protection district.
“We’re going back to the drawing board to see what would be an acceptable way forward to help fund us,” Whisenant said.
Sheila Gallagher has lived in Prairie Creek for 40 years. She said she was happy the fire department decided to change its course for more funding.
“I am relieved that the fire department has decided to look for a better way,” Gallagher said.
According to Beaver Lake Fire Department, the petition set the boundaries for the district and set the maximum rate of fire dues at 0.325% of a resident’s property appraised value, such as $325 per $100,000. Chief Whisenant said the fire protection was aimed at helping to meet the demand’s of the area’s growing population.
“I would have had to have gone from $12.50 a month to roughly 54 dollars a month,” Gallagher said.
Gallagher said that significant rate increase along with the fact that only 10% of the area’s residents had to approve the petition, but more than 50% had to oppose it to stop it, made her hesitant about the petition.
Chief Whisenant said the department will now look at new ways to get additional funding and resources.
“Listening to our community and look forward to engage with them because public safety here is paramount,” Whisenant said.
Whisenant said getting more funding will be critical because of the lack thereof now. Beaver Lake Fire Department had to let go of four of its full-time firefighters because of a lack of money. He also said response times could increase because of this, but said no matter what, the department will be ready to answer any calls.
“You are going to get a response from the Beaver Lake Fire Department. It is going to be increasingly harder to get that response in a timely manner,” Whisenant said.
Beaver Lake Fire also relies heavily on volunteers, but it currently has none. If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter, you can visit the fire station on Cypress Lane or head to the website.