While I was on vacation last week, one of my wife's co-workers told me that the Pink House was on fire! That's all the information I got and my imagination ran wild. As old as it is I had visions of fire pouring out of the windows as this nearly 250-year-old landmark became nothing but a memory. It was several heart-pounding minutes before I got any kind of concrete information. When I finally saw the video I was quite relieved at how little damage there was--thank God. Quick work by our fine firefighters, emergency personnel and just everyday people and employees--some coming to the rescue of another trapped on that second floor. How heroic those coming to her rescue were. Then the heartwarming stories of tourists just flabbergasted over what happened. And the rescue of jobs by other restauranteurs offering to hire those employees temporarily while repairs are being made.
Then the shine got taken off by news that there could have been a quicker response if we Savannah taxpayers hadn't rejected the "fire fee." Governments everywhere are always burning the proverbial "midnight oil" trying to figure our how to separate you from more of your money. Seems to me we ran a pretty good fire department for darn near 200 years without a fire fee which. let's face it, was nothing more than a tax. But a special type of tax. Since it was not labled as such the city was hitting churches, schools and non-profits for the money as well.. The sinister part was hitting businesses, churches and non-profits on square footage, not just one set fee costing thousands more dollars.
So we've cut back and among the cuts, Engine 16 which, I presume, covered some of the downtown historic buildings and such. And because it was no longer in service the response to the Pink House fire took several minutes longer than it would have if good ol' 16 was still in service. The head of the firefighters' union here seemed to intimate that we Savannah taxpayers were responsible. Perhaps I'm putting words in his mouth so let me tell of a city official who said that by rejecting the fire fee we the taxpayers proved we don't want top-notch fire protection/service. That's an outrage! Of course we want top-notch, first class fire protection and service--how ridiculous that we wish otherwise. Contrary to the politicians popular belief, we taxpayers are NOT bottomless pits just dying to give the government more since they do such a wonderful job with it anyway.
Why don't we come up with a budget that funds a top-notch fire (and police department) and then figure out what to do with the rest of their income just like those who pay the taxes? Government's first and foremost responsibility is to protect its citizens, everything else is secondary. If they were going to access a fire fee why did it have to be $250 per house and then charge every other building in town a square-footage fee? Budget for a fire department just like we're doing now but do this if it's necessary: what about $100/house and $250 for businesses except for churches and non-profits. That should have brought in some good extra cash and perhaps ol' 16 could still be on duty. Does that make sense? I think most of us could live with that and the fire department would have gotten a nice hunk of extra change,