The proposed fire levy failed in Lewis County with 1,582 voting against the levy, and 791 voting in favor. The levy, if it had passed, would have generated roughly $100,000 a year for each department for five years.
Lewis County Fire Board President Bobby Stewart, III called the vote, “very disappointing.”
Lewis County Commissioners will canvass the votes this Friday. Currently the results are unofficial until canvassing has been completed and then submitted to the West Virginia Secretary of State.
County fire departments were contacted for comment, with Weston Fire Department, Jane Lew Volunteer Fire Department, and Jackson’s Mill Volunteer Fire Department responding, “No comment.”
Walkersville Volunteer Fire Department Chief Joe Spray did offer a comment saying, “It will definitely have a negative impact on Lewis County fire service. Our struggle just got worse, and we’ll do the best we can with the resources we have available.”
The Lewis County Firefighters Association is meeting Monday evening. The LC Firefighters Association encompasses all six county volunteer departments to work together as one entity, with Jane Lew Volunteer Fire Department Senior Firefighter Edsel Smith serving as president.
Smith said there will probably be some discussion about the levy failure at the meeting, but added that individual departments will discuss how they will cut costs and come up with a plan.
“Whatever [permanent] decisions are made will be countywide,” Smith stated.
Non-emergency services that departments do decide to cut will have to be coordinated with the Lewis-Gilmer E-911 Center.
Solidarity is the key, Smith added, saying, “We all have to be on the same page.”
Local businessman, Robert Novak, who advocated against the fire levy, said in a statement, “I am a resident of Lewis County and I for one was against the fire levy. I believe Lewis County and the City of Weston have been taxed enough and really have nothing to show for our tax dollars.”
Novak went on to say that Weston is “like a ghost town” and several storefronts are vacant on Main Avenue.
“If you continue to raise taxes you will lose businesses and a lot of Lewis County residents are on a fixed income, which cannot afford to pay a higher tax,” Novak continued.
Novak maintains those people on a fixed income are fearful of losing their homes because they cannot afford to pay their taxes. He also claims the fire board ignored residents’ efforts to contact them regarding the fire fee.
“They ignored the outcry of the Lewis County residents that wanted to offer to pay a slightly higher fire fee again. They refuse to communicate with us, the Lewis County residents,” he said.
Fire board member Gary Hall from Walkersville responded to that charge by saying, “Nobody contacted me. If anybody wanted to talk to us, they could.”
Smith said he does not expect any definitive answers at Monday’s meeting regarding responses to non-emergency calls.