Stella Fire Department struggling to keep doors open

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STELLA, Mo. — The Stella Fire Department is struggling to keep the doors open and keep residents safe.

They’re run completely by donations and dues alone–and that’s not enough right now.

Eric Norris, Stella Fire Department, said, “Firefighter safety right now is at an all time low for our department.”

The Stella Fire Department is is not able to keep up with the increase in cost of equipment and maintenance.

They’re asking fire district voters to support a tax of 30 cents per $100 of assessed value which will cost the average home owner $45 dollars more a year.

“We know taxes aren’t popular but we want to be transparent and factual in what we need and we also want to be responsible in transparent in how we spend those tax dollars.”

The fire department is the only fire department in Newton and McDonald County that is funded by membership fees and fundraisers.

Currently 30% of residents in the coverage area are paying $50 for services.

The department often receives mutual aid from other agencies, including the Neosho Area Fire Protection District who see the strain Stella is facing.

Greg Hickman, Neosho Area Fire Protection District, said, “Whenever you are talking about a volunteer membership, it varies from year to year. Not everyone pays or wants to volunteer or pay the volunteer fire department for protection but with the tax on property its a guarantee income.”

The firefighters serve 132 square miles of service area in McDonald and Newton County and operate out of 5 stations.

The funds from the tax will go towards replacing protective equipment and upgrading facilities.

“Our firefighter personal protective gear that they wear to fight fire in, in most cases is 15, 16 years old and it has a 10 year life on it,” said Norris.

“Just the hats, coats, boots, gloves, hoods and stuff like that you’re talking vicinity of about $12,000,” said Hickman.

The goal is to improve the safety of the firefighters as well as insure fire protection to all.

“What the tax does it generates a raise for us so it will be more money but its easier to budget the department into the future with the tax because we are gonna know because it will be more predictable of what our income will be,” said Norris.

Community forum meetings are scheduled to discuss the tax proposal here.

District residents will be able to vote for the tax on April 7th.

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