The volunteer fire department of Oak Grove is no longer receiving funding from the association. Oak Grove had been receiving the funding for nine years. The tax money was helping Oak Grove’s volunteer fire department operate. Without the funding, Oak Grove’s fire department is at a loss of how to continue their normal operations.
“Understand that the requirement for a separate entity went into effect 10 years ago in the beginning and is not a recent change,” Gallman read from the statement. “This now mandates a review by the State Examiners of Public Accounts before any further action can or will be taken by this board.”
According to the statement, over the last nine years the town of Oak Grove has received more than $300,000 dollars from the association to provide coverage to the rural residents of the county. The statement says Oak Grove received the money knowingly in violation of the agreements.
Oak Grove was found to be a municipal fire department whose grant funding is controlled by the town of Oak Grove, which is a violation of the agreement presented by the association.
Former Oak Grove Mayor Charles Rogers clarified at the meeting that Oak Grove never misused their funding.
After reading the statement, Gallman opened the floor to rural residents of Oak Grove. Oak Grove Mayor Charles Merkel began asking the association questions, but board member Geary Coogler objected since Merkel does not reside within the rural area of Oak Grove.
A petition with 421 signatures from the residents of Oak Grove was presented to the association. The petition was asking for the volunteer fire department of Oak Grove to continue to service them.
Linda Johnson, a rural resident of Oak Grove, brought up the matter of insurance rates rising if Oak Grove was forced to stop services. Edward Nix, also a rural resident of Oak Grove, is concerned about insurance rates rising as well.
Nix was also present Monday night at the Talladega County Commission meeting. Merkel and Oak Grove residents presented their concerns about the funding before the commission. The council said they supported a solution.
Shane Caton, a concerned resident and volunteer fire fighter for Oak Grove, asked if the association could find a mutual agreement with the town of Oak Grove.
The association finally agreed to form a committee and to meet with the town of Oak Grove concerning the matter. Oak Grove’s lawyer, Barry Vaughn, will be present at the meeting. Oak Grove’s fire department agreed to cease the consideration of stopping services to rural residents until further notice.
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