The Springfield City Commission heard the second reading of an ordinance Monday that will allow the city to charge property owners a special fee for fire services.
So many people showed up they had to move the public hearing from city hall to the Springfield Community Center. Being that it was a public hearing, all those residents had a chance to air their concerns. And for the most part, many of them didn't support the fee, even with the risk of skyrocketing property insurance rates.
"This is about a budget shortfall, I need to figure out how to raise some money, how I can take some money from people, and that's what I'll do. That's not a fundamental understanding of the issue," said one resident.
"What are we going to assess for next, police department or whatever comes up? You're just going to snap a tax on people. It's just not right," another concerned resident said.
As NewsChannel 7 has reported, Springfield is in this position because of its Insurance Service Office, or ISO, review. The fire readiness review came back showing the city could very well go up to the worst rating of 10 if it didn't implement some changes.
The biggest change is the number of firefighters responding to fires. ISO requires four from the same station. For the Springfield Fire Department, that would mean hiring six more people at a total cost of around $400,000.
Monday night residents pleaded with commissioners to find the money within their own budget, but Mayor Robert Walker told the heated crowd, the money isn't there.
"We're the most underpaid city in Bay County, so for me to go ask one of our employees that we're going to cut your pay to pay for this, I just can't justify doing that."
Despite the opposition, commissioners passed the ordinance 4-1. Mayor Walker assured residents it wasn't a done deal yet, although he didn't explain where the money would come from if it wasn't from the special fee. If the fee is finalized, city officials told NewsChannel 7 residents would most likely start seeing a bill in July. ISO set a deadline of June 1st for the city to make the changes.