The Lyndon Fire Department will close their station 2 for 24 hours today. The department is citing budget crisis as a need to close the station in a series of “brown outs” (a temporary closing). According to the interviews given by Captain Blevins, LFD hopes that the new mayor can help them with their budget problems. Before we go into details about their problem, I first need to inform you about fire protection districts in Kentucky.
Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) Chapter 75 governs the establishment of fire protection districts. Originally written in the late 1940’s or early 1950s, the tax levied on personal property was set at a maximum of 10%. That may have been good then, but now the percentage is not enough to fully staff a suburban fire department.
Back in 2003 five fire protection districts in the east end of Jefferson County thought it would be a good idea to merge into one department, eliminating redundancies and wasteful spending. Every department pulled out of the negotiations for various reasons, but in my opinion, none of the departments wanted to give up control (read: the Chiefs did not want to lose their kingdoms). Although this sounded like a good idea to the majority of the fire fighters, the entire deal fell apart. Even then the Lyndon Fire Department was having budgetary problems. The only way department budgets would increase, was when there was new construction (and thus new property to tax). Several departments in Jefferson County (now called the Suburban Fire Districts) are land locked. They had built all they can in their district and expenses keep rising. A few lucky departments still had farm land that was being developed. Although budgets were tight, no one could have predicted the economy collapsing. With properties unoccupied and houses being foreclosed, the already tight budgets became critically low.
The suburban fire districts in Jefferson County have lobbied and fought to get the state legislature to increase the 10% tax cap to no avail. I seriously doubt in this climate that any politician will propose an increase in any tax rate. Fire Protection districts have few options open to them. One, which Lyndon Fire Department is pursuing, is to get a Certificate of Need (CON) for an ambulance. This would allow the district to levy up to 10% personal property tax for an EMS service in addition to the fire tax. A few departments have tried this in the past, the state board Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services (KBEMS) has already quelled additional CONs in this county.
There are 18 different Fire Protection Districts in Jefferson County. That’s eighteen fire chiefs. Is it now time to rethink merging the fire districts?
Why have the media been so light on this topic? Why not ask questions, delve a little into the background of Lyndon’s budget, it is public information after all. Instead the Louisville media just swallow the story, hook, line and sinker without asking relevant questions.
Captain Blevins stated that they have to close the station because they cannot afford the OVERTIME to cover the station. Why are they paying overtime to cover the station? How many firefighters do they allow to take off in one 24 hour shift? Do they employ part time firefighter that could fill the need with straight time pay? Why do they only staff their station 2 with 3 people? There is a LMEMS ambulance station at Lyndon 2. Where was it that day? Do they really think if they own an ambulance that it will increase response times? Seriously? Lyndon is a combination department, why can you not staff the engine with volunteers? How about staffing the engine with volunteers at night? Worthington Station 2 is staffed and only 2.4 miles from Lyndon Station 2. Do we really need two staffed fire stations so close?