Firefighting Agreement Nullified

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The city of Meridian has had a mutual aid agreement with Lauderdale County, which allowed volunteer fire departments to call on Meridian firefighters in case of a catastrophe.

Because of that agreement, county residents living within five miles of the city in an approved subdivision with fire hydrants have been able to get low fire insurance rates at or slightly above the city's class 4 rating.

Mayor Smith explained the ensuing problem.

"Those residents outside the city who enjoy a class four or five rating pay nothing toward the $4.6 million cost of maintaining a full time fire department," said Smith. "Adding to this inequity is the fact that when a building outside of the city of Meridian that has a class 4 or 5 rating burns down, that fire loss is added to the fire losses inside the city."

That situation, the mayor told the council, could have a negative effect on rates for city homeowners and businesses.

"So the residents of Meridian are, in effect, subsidizing the fire insurance premiums of residents outside the city and are being penalized with higher rates as losses increase," said the mayor. "This situation is grossly unfair to the taxpayers in Meridian."

On that basis the mayor asked the council to rescind the present agreement and cited others in the state taking the same action.

"The other cities that have already rescinded mutual aid agreements are Clinton, Hattiesburg, Jackson, Laurel, Pascagoula, Clarksdale, West Point, Biloxi, Long Beach, Petal, Philadelphia and Flowood," said Smith.

This action will have no effect on commitments to serve official fire districts such as the industrial parks, the prison at Lost Gap, NAS Meridian and the Air National Guard.

"As a practical matter, Meridian is rarely called and no calls have been placed in the last few years," said Smith.