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Reader rips county over bogus fire fee bills

Herald-Gazette subscriber Elliott Shimley blasted the county in a letter to the editor this week regarding being billed for fire fees he had already paid. We have had dozens of similar complaints. County administrator Bob Zellner promised a response by Friday, Feb. 3. We are still awaiting that response. Here is Schimley’s diatribe: I received Lamar County’s letter on Jan. 20 accusing me of non-payment of the ‘carefully considered’ fire and ambulance fees. As to the commission’s definition of ‘carefully considered,’ in an article in The Herald Gazette on Dec. 7, 2010 the following is noted: From commissioner Nancy Thrash on small businesses: ‘I think we did some of them an injustice;’ and from chairman Jay Matthews: ‘The process may be confusing’ and he is ‘drafting an explanatory letter to be posted around the county’ and ‘printed in the paper.’ On Jan. 4, 2011 in an article in the Gazette he added this caveat: ‘The board enacted the fees without enough study on what would be involved.’ Commissioner George Brown added at a meeting Dec. 17: ‘We need to redo the whole list.’ Commissioner Jimmy Hearn added: ‘Our hands are tied’ on combining conservation use lands to save on fire fees. Thrash had her hands full at a Milner meeting Dec. 14 answering questions from city manager Harold Wilson and councilwoman Betty Wilson about apartments and vacant land being charged the fees. At a Dec. 15 tax assessors meeting, the chief assessor commented, (I use literary license) ‘The sheep are agreeable to be shorn’ despite several needed corrections. She said the ‘Overwhelmed commission office staff sent people to her to correct their bills’ and ‘If the post cards hadn’t been wrong to begin with it might not have been as bad.’ Need I say more about your completely inept handling of this matter? I have a canceled check made out to the Lamar County commissioners dated Dec. 4, 2010. The office staff said the amount due was $35. I wrote the check. Sadly, I admit to being one of the sheep. Now they have the audacity to say, ‘According to our records you haven’t paid your fees.’ The check was written before both news articles. The county staff accepted the check in full payment. This should be noted and the past due notice rescinded in full. Because of the tone of the letter and the implications it contained I’m entitled to another letter of apology and regret thanking me for my prompt response to my civic responsibility.

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