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Monday August 2nd, 2021 9:37PM

County could require paying for firefighting, garbage pickup

By The Associated Press

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Commissioners in a coastal Georgia county are considering requiring residents to pay for private firefighting and garbage collection services.

Chatham County commissioners tell the Savannah Morning News that they're already hearing complaints about the plan. Commission Chairman Al Scott wants to hold a forum for residents before commissioners decide.

Right now, residents don't have to pay for fire or garbage services.

Commissioner Helen Stone asked for more information on how Chatham Emergency Services determines its fees. The nonprofit fire department serves unincorporated Chatham County. Some people want the agency to charge a flat fee, Scott said. The agency currently charges based on a property's value.

Some people are required to subscribe by their mortgage lender, and subscribers pay lower property insurance premiums. The agency will put out fires for people who don't pay, but then sends a bill that could be as high as $20,000.

Scott supports “some kind of requirement to make certain that everybody is actually covering their homes with fire-protection services,” but says how fees are calculated remain an issue.

Chatham Emergency Services Chief Operating Officer Phil Koster said a mandatory fee would make sure the fire service can meet future financial needs.

Commissioner Pat Farrell objected to mandatory trash collection, saying some people responsibly dispose of their own trash.

“I don’t know how far we need to go in mandating good behavior,” he said.

County Attorney R. Jonathan Hart said some residents complain about garbage piles on properties in unincorporated areas, particularly at construction sites.

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