TEXARKANA, Ark. — The Miller County Administrative Fire Board voted Jason Johnston as board chairman during their first meeting Thursday.
The board, formed by the Quorum Court's passage of the new Miller County Rural Fire Department Handbook in October, will oversee purchases over a certain amount by the county's volunteer fire departments.
During Thursday's meeting, the board heard from some of the county's fire chiefs, and Bill Oliver with the Miller County Rural Fire Department Association, who all gave some background to the board on how they got to this point. Some pointed out that it would be a waste of the board's time to have to approve station purchases over $500 and that the amount requiring approval should be raised to at least $1,000 or more. Others pointed out that they are having a difficult time recruiting new volunteer firefighters, which are needed to keep the stations functional. The county is required to have at least six certified firefighters per station to maintain each fire service area's ISO rating, which affects homeowner insurance rates. Fire service areas with fewer trained firefighters have a higher ISO rating, which increases the insurance rates.
The creation of the board and the new fire department handbook, which also creates an emergency services district, has seen much pushback from the fire department association, which has stated it did not need additional oversight.
Miller County Judge Cathy Hardin Harrison first proposed the new plan in the spring. It is modeled on a plan used by Conway County VFD.
Chairman Johnston said the board would take some time to review the departments' 2019 budgets before making any further
The next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 2 at the Miller County Courthouse, 400 Laurel Street.