Search This Blog

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Fire Department Crisis Has a "Silver" Lining

I talked with one of the main opponents to the fire fee and he affirmed his support of the fire department and believed that the decision to scuttle the Marlinton Fire Fee was actually a good thing and will lead to very nice consequences.

Here's what likely would have happened if the Marlinton Town Council had passed the ordinance but would not let people outside of the town limits vote on it:

The matter would have gone to court, probably the Supreme Court of the United States.  Opponents of taxation without representation would have jumped on this and would have won.  They would have won because the fire fee was essentially an unintended scam. 

One customer (The town of Marlinton) was trying to force the other customers (people living outside the town limits to pay $$$ for a service merely used by the town not provided by the town.  

The town council was forced to admit that it had no authority to make any other customer pay for a service that they themselves voted upon.

The basic question was "taxation without representation."  This is still a touchy issue in American over 200 years since the tea was dumped into Boston harbor.  

It wasn't merely a matter of the "fee" but the fact that people were being forced to pay for a service without getting to vote on it.

As the old say goes,  Don't pee on my shoes and tell me it is raining!

I am so glad that the town council decided to back off and throw this illegal proposal out the door.  Good going.  I am also glad that Mayor Sam likewise recognized the futility of the proposal and backed off so.  Sam Felton is a good mayor who is trying to do the right thing.  But sometimes we just don't see things the same way.

I had complained about this fee from day one.  I said that we still remembered having a tea part several years ago which caused a revolution in America.  I am glad that this proposal was scuttled in the harbor before it because law.

Now the bright side:  The MVFD can tell proceed in a legal manner which is already approved by state law.  They won't have to invent their own law which will have multiple challenges.  They will turn to the County Commission and ask them to impose a fire fee on the whole county.

True,  there will be multiple firefights and legal challenges but ultimately the law will be held that the County Commission will successfully impose the county wide tax.  It will be approved by lawfully elected commissioners and it will have support from the people.

The bright side is that ALL THE DEPARTMENTS will get equal funding for their services.  Frost will have support,  Cass will have support, Durbin will have support.  And all of this will be from the electorate who can kick out any county commissioner who votes for more taxes.  County commissioners will approve the fire tax at the risk of their careers.  AND THAT IS GOOD!

Democracy will be validated and advanced by this lawful outcome.

You can be sure that the three commissioners were sitting on pins and needles hoping that they wouldn't have to deal with this question BUT NOW THEY WILL.  Now the spotlight will turn on them and we are in for the performance of a lifetime. 

Various fire departments will advance upon the county meetings pleading for their share of the new pie.  Then there will be fighting break out among them but that is not bad.  Competition for the largess of the county will make for improved service and ALL OF US WILL BENEFIT.

The fire departments will remain as volunteer fire departments manned by people who do so out of the goodness of their hearts and the love of their neighbors.

Attending a county commission meeting will now be exciting and stimulating.  

My wife's first response upon hearing the good news was that we have to send in our voluntary donation to the fire departments.  AND WE WILL!


  1. I am disappointed that you did not tell the truth to your readers. "Taxation without representation" is not an issue. It is well settled under both state and federal law that a city can assess fees outside of its boundaries. You would LOSE in every court between Marlinton and DC. The US Supreme Court would not hear the case because the issue that you describe does not exist and has not existed for over 200 years. The Marlinton town council did a great disservice to people living in and outside of Marlinton. The fees generated could pay for newer equipment and therefore increase the effectiveness of the fire department. Further, without the newer equipment the rating of the fire department could fall, thereby increasing homeowner's insurance. True, the easy solution to the non-existent problem would be a county-wide ordinance, but don't expect anything intelligent from the county commission. They have been dodging this hot potato for a long time, and I don't see any action from them in the near future.

  2. Thanks to Laura Finch, town attorney for her good advice, and to Mayor Sam Felton for respecting our American system of representative government. I will not support a county-wide fire "fee" because this is not a fee, but a tax. However I will support an increase in County property taxes, lawfully imposed by my elected County Commissioners, if this is necessary to adequately fund our volunteer fire companies.

  3. The statement above: (It is well settled under both state and federal law) is a blatant falsehood.

  4. The Marlinton fire department wants the fire fee so that it can have two full time employees on the dole sitting in the firehouse all the time.


We are making comments available again! You are free to express your First Amendment Rights Here!

About Me

A local archivist who specializes in all things Pocahontas County