Fire District Bill could lead to changes in fire lines

Fire District Bill could lead to changes in fire lines
Photo credit: WDAM

LAMAR COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - County supervisors could soon save homeowners money on insurance if a House Bill is signed into law.

House Bill 469 will authorize a county board of supervisors to dissolve, redefine or reconfigure fire protection districts.

"We have invisible political boundaries that are getting in the way of folks saving money on their home owners insurance," District 101 House Rep. Brad Touchstone said.

Touchstone, who is also the author of the bill, said people across the state could benefit from this.

"We have a lot of people in this state who live within five miles of a fire station, but that station happens to be in a separate fire protection district," Touchstone said. "So rather than building fire stations to match current boundaries, we are going to be able to move the boundaries to best situate the fire stations."

Mississippi Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Mike Chaney commended the bill and the efforts by Touchstone.

"I commend the House for making House Bill 469 one of the first general bills passed this session, and for recognizing how important it is to quickly address issues that will help reduce homeowner insurance premium rates," Chaney said.

Touchstone said, "I think you're going to find broad support for this bill, in fact I think that is indicative of the vote in the House of Representatives where we passed it unanimously, which rarely happens."

Touchstone used Lamar County as an example, saying since Hurricane Katrina the county has built roughly 13 fire stations in the county. This bill could cut back on the number of stations needed to be built.

"The current law, is just incredibly (difficult) to adjust these lines, the great thing about this bill it allows, county supervisors to save people money on their home owners insurance without building a single fire station," Touchstone said.

With the current district lines in Lamar County, the Oloh District only has one fire station.

"What we're trying to do is give the supervisors flexibility to adjust those lines so people are receiving the insurance rating benefit of the nearest fire station," Touchstone said.

Touchstone said he has addressed these issues with the Lamar County Board of Supervisors and said he has their support.

Lamar County administrator Jody Waits commended the counties first responders and said this could benefit the county.

"Our first responders, our volunteer fire departments are tremendous in the county, so the board supports them wholeheartedly in all their efforts," Waits said.

Touchstone said, "We're going to be able to adjust these lines around all of our current fire station foot prints in a way that benefits the people, being brought with in a fire protection district where you have within 5 miles of a fire station has huge implications on your home owner's insurance and I think a lot of people don't realize that."

Chaney added, "Giving the county board of supervisors this authority helps provide the most appropriate and efficient fire protection coverage for the citizens of their counties."

Chaney added he expects the Senate to also quickly address the issue.

The bill has been sent to the Senate for consideration. If passed, it will go into effect July 1, 2017.