MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — After a pair of public forums a week ago, the Berkeley County Council met Thursday and voted on a motion that would double the annual fire fee for residents from $35 to $70.

The plan passed with a 3-2 vote. Council President Doug Copenhaver, Elaine Mauck, and Jim Whitacre voted for it and James Barnhart and Dan Dulyea voted against it.

The fee increase, set to take effect next month, will staff each of the county’s five main volunteer fire stations and three substations with two paid firefighters 24 hours a day.

Copenhaver tells WEPM News that the decision wasn’t an easy one.

“Any time that you increase fees or taxes, its very tough,” said Copenhaver. “During the public hearing comments, there was no one that opposed paid fire staff to assist the volunteers.”

He added that this was about providing a service that will respond faster and potentially save lives.

“I think its a fair statement that the majority of the people is more than willing to pay 9 cents a day to make sure that fire truck has a much better chance getting out that door faster when someone is at the station,” said Copenhaver.

The plan still could be decided by an election if 30 percent of qualified county voters petition to challenge it.

Story by Elias McMillan, WEPM Radio

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