Haakon County to be fully accounted into legal Fire Protection Districts

Proposed – everything in a fire district ... In the southeast corner is the existing Midland district. The existing Milesville district is north-central with a proposed expansion westward. The existing Deep Creek district claims most of the northeast corner, with hopeful expansion. The Philip Fire Protection District, in the southwest, encompasses the rest of Haakon County. At this time, the Philip Fire Protection District has no proposed mill levy, thus no fire district taxes.

Philip, Milesville, Midland and Deep Creek all have existing fire protection districts. Land may not be within the boundaries of two different fire protection districts. Milesville is petitioning to include the two full townships and parts of four others between its current boundaries and Pennington County. The Deep Creek district is hoping to include two townships to its northwest.

In attempting to clarify matters, Philip Fire Chief Marty Hansen said, "We definitely need to have fire protection districts. Right now I am not really in favor of a tax, though it would be nice to rely on a steady income."

PVFD Treasurer Mike Moses illustrated that need. In 2006, the PVFD billed $47,129.50 for fire fighting. Payments from insurance and private pay concerning that amount came to $14,293.52 (30 percent). For 2007, the PVFD billed $41,347.00 and received from insurance and private pay only $3,599 (less than nine percent).

"I think all of us would just as soon not go to a levy," said Hansen, "but to keep the fire department going, we are going to have to collect a revenue."

There are costs, costs that all the applied-for grants and help from the City of Philip can not cover. "For us to run all our available trucks up to, say, Cheyenne River, to fight fire for 15 minutes or for several hours costs us at least $700 in fuel," said Hansen.

Hansen said, "The city has been very good to us." Moses added, "Though 95 percent of our calls are for out of the city limits." The City of Philip pays for all fire hall utilities, for liability insurance on the premises and for workmen's compensation insurance. The hall is heated through the city's geothermal network, though there is a propane back-up generator. The PVFD pays its own truck insurance.

The City of Philip pays the fuel bill. "They've never denied us," said Hansen. During just the worst part of the fire seasons in 2006 and in 2007, the State of South Dakota provided a 90 percent cost reimbursement. That reimbursement is in place for 2008, but only if, and when, the governor declares a fire emergency. The PVFD has used past reimbursements to pay back the city for fuel usage.

Moses said, "Most basic rural fire insurance policies come with a $100 or $500 coverage payout for fire claims. Though variable from insurance company to company, every $20 more paid in premiums per year would increase the coverage another $1,000."

The Philip Fire Protection District was confirmed by the Haakon County Commissioners on July 3, 1984. It includes approximately 648 square miles of land within Haakon County.

The Midland Fire Protection District, encompassing approximately 432 square miles, has existed since June 5, 1984. The first time it imposed a mill levy was last year, at the rate of 0.289. This means that not quite three pennies of tax will be collected for every thousand dollars of evaluation is determined on real property. A $100,000 home/land total would pay approximately $28.90.

The Milesville Fire Protection District has existed since August 5, 1974. With its addition in 1990