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Perry church says higher fee could force them to move

People who live in Perry and own businesses can expect higher water bills. That's because of a hike in the fire protection fee.

The increase starts next month, leaving one local church fearful for the future. The congregation at Calvary Way Church are concerned they might have to move.

"We're looking to transition to a smaller facility," Pastor Les Albritton says. "These fees have really had an impact on this church and on our ministry."

Last year, a fire protection fee was tacked on with the water bill. Albritton says a monthly payment of about $16, is now over $100, since the fee was put in place.

Next month, that fire fee will increase. For residences, it will go up 70 percent. For businesses, it will go up 25 percent. That means Calvary Way's monthly $89 fire protection fee will be about $112 next month.

"Last year, we had to make 1,300 in cuts for the budget," says Albritton.

With only 35 members, that investment is not an easy offering. The city manager, Lee Gilmour, says the fee came as a recommendation from the Insurance Service Organization.

"They did not feel that the city had adequate fire protection," Gilmour explains.

The city had two options: increase the property tax, or millage rate, or add a separate fee.

"For most property owners and most renters, the most cost-effective measure would be to have the fire protection fee," says Gilmour.

The charge is based on square footage, the number of people the building holds, and how much of air conditioning and heat it uses. This applies to schools and hospitals, as well.

"We stopped having worship services in the sanctuary to save on our electric bill," Albritton notes. "We've also had to stop a soup kitchen ministry that we had every Friday for three years."

Gilmour says this is invaluable, because it will protect the city.

"I think over time it will be beneficial for everyone," he says.

Not everyone, though, is singing its praises.

"Perry residents are in for a rude awakening next month," he says.

The fire protection fee is intended to pay for new equipment, hydrants, and more firefighters.

Follow 13WMAZ's Karli Barnett on Twitter and Facebook.


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