Draft of fire new territorial agreement nearly finalized

Thursday, February 12, 2009 | 9:42 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA—The first draft of a new territorial agreement between the Boone County Fire Protection District and Columbia is "very close" to being finalized, Boone County Fire Protection Board member Dave Griggs said Thursday.

Griggs said it was his and City Manager Bill Watkins' goal to have a final draft written within the next couple of weeks.

"I firmly believe that the Fire District and the city will come to an equitable agreement that serves those two entities very well,” Griggs said.

In late December the city extended the territorial agreement, which would have expired on Jan. 31, until March 31 in order to work out, among other things, financial and procedural problems, said Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade.

The original territorial agreement, dated Nov. 22, 1994, established that the Fire District would be responsible for land annexed by Columbia — allowing the Fire District to retain the tax revenue it receives from the city.

The 1994 territorial agreement was a “very political” compromise, Wade said.

According to previous Missourian reports,  the City Council told the Fire District in June that it would seek to renegotiate the agreement, which Watkins said Columbia could no longer afford.

In a June report to  the Council, Watkins said the yearly costs had almost doubled every two years since the payment plan began in 1995.  

Watkins could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.

In 2007, Columbia paid the Fire District $550,732 in property tax revenue. That amount is projected to rise to $872,687 in 2009, and by 2010 the city is projected to pay more than $1 million to the Fire District.

One issue that will be addressed in the new agreement is who will respond to calls in areas of Columbia that were annexed by the city after the original agreement was adopted. Rather than having the Fire District respond to all annexed areas, the Columbia Fire Department may respond under a new agreement. Another option would be for both departments to respond together, depending on the location, Fire District Interim Chief Scott Olsen said.

The Fire District receives property tax revenue from Columbia for all of the land it is responsible for, Wade said.

“Changing the territorial limits within city limits has a huge impact on their budget," Wade said. "It’s a lot of money."

The first draft of a new response map has been drawn and presented to Fire Department and Fire District leadership, Olsen said.

"It’s a slow and methodical process," Olsen said. "It takes time to wind our way through these issues."


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