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Voters approve fire tax

Crenshaw County voters approved a half-cent increase in sales taxes that will support local fire departments and public safety.

“We won by almost 70 percent and I just really appreciate the citizens for their support,” said Stephen Wilson, president of the Crenshaw County Association of Volunteer Fire Departments. “This is going to help out tremendously.”

The new tax, which starts in January, will pay for new equipment, maintenance of existing equipment and training.

Up to this point, the county’s rural fire departments existed off $8,000 a year from tobacco sales taxes. Crenshaw has 12 volunteer fire departments and no paid firefighters. With the limited funding, Wilson said most local volunteer fire departments could not afford the training paid fire departments usually get. This new tax revenue will bridge that gap.

“It’ll help send some of our guys to training,” Wilson said. “The fire college has a lot courses that we could not afford until now. Training is huge. Insurance rates go down when we are able to train more.”

The new revenue will also cover debt acquired when many fire departments took out loans to match federal grants used for the purchase of 11 fire trucks.

“Rural departments were really struggling,” Wilson said. “This was a victorious day for firefighters in the county.”