Homeowners and other property owners could benefit because a better equipped and expanded fire department could provide more fire protection service and could result in lower property insurance rates, Huffman said.
The department needs revenue that could be generated by a tax that state law empowers emergency service districts to levy, Huffman said.
Murchison Volunteer Fire Department runs almost 100 percent off donations, other than a $10,000 stipend from Henderson County each year, but donations are down because of the economy, Huffman said.
“People cannot afford to give like they did 10 years ago,” Huffman said. “In my opinion,” he added, having an emergency services district with authority to levy a tax is “the only way that a fire department in this day and time is going to be able to survive.”
Although 100 signatures were required, supporters of the Murchison Volunteer Fire Department collected about 280 signatures, successfully petitioning Henderson County commissioners to approve boundary lines for the proposed district and to place it on the ballot.
The proposed district would cover about 130 square miles, extending from the Van Zandt County line to Lake Athens, bounded on the east by Farm-to-Market Road 1803 North and bounded on the west primarily by Farm-to-Market Road 1616.
The district would have a board appointed by the commissioners court that could levy a tax up to 10 cents per $100 assessed property value and allocate the tax revenue to the Murchison Fire Department.
The mayor cited as another reason the possible lowering of the fire insurance rating for the city if the fire department had more funding for equipment and operations.
If voters approve the emergency service district, Huffman said the fire department, now headquartered in Murchison, plans to establish a second station at Lake Athens to give better response to people there and in Murchison.
Assistant Fire Chief Matt Randolph would be in charge of the Lake Athens station, Huffman said.
Saying the Murchison Volunteer Fire Department has old fire trucks and other apparatus, some of it dating back to 1976, Huffman said the department also needs increased funding for equipment replacement, operations costs and training.
Firefighters are spending money out of their pockets now to do things for the fire department, Huffman said. He pointed out that registration for a training class can run $100 to $200 a day.
Training a firefighter can cost $7,500, and training an emergency medical service responder can cost another $5,000, Capt. Lisa Huffman said.
The Murchison Volunteer Fire Department responds to all types of fires, including motor vehicle accidents, structure fires and grass fires, as well as responding to medical emergencies.