State Supreme Court approves Diamondhead Fire fee

DIAMONDHEAD, MS (WLOX) - The State Supreme Court's ruling on the fee Diamondhead residents pay for fire protection is getting mixed reaction from the people who live in the city.

As WLOX News has reported in the past, some Diamondhead residents sued their fire protection district claiming the $20 a month fee it collects from residents amounted to an illegal tax. But In 2012, A Hancock County judge ruled the fee was legal, and last week the State Supreme Court upheld that decision.

When the lawsuit was filed against the Diamondhead Fire Protection District in March of 2009, Diamondhead was not a city. The community didn't incorporate until February 2012.

"I just don't see that now that we're a city that we should have to pay it," said Diamondhead resident Lois Gallo.

Gallo has lived in Diamondhead for five years. She said the city taxes she now pays should take care of all city services.

"We still pay a POA fee, we still pay the fire department. I don't understand why we are paying all of this if we're a city now," remarked Gallo.

The attorney for the Fire District, Jason Savarese, said, "Diamondhead was just incorporated recently, so they haven't merged with the fire department. The water and sewerage district is also a separate agency."

Savarese said right now the fire department operates as an independent agency separate from the city and doesn't receive funds to operate from the city. And some residents are fine with that.

"I have no problem with it at all," resident Al Grace said. "Because it's normal. We should pay something for fire fees."

Resident Judith Propper disagreed. "I don't think most cities have a separate fee for that, and if we're going to be a city, I think we ought to be running it like one."

"I think there are a very few people who are against it and they're the ones that have the most money and they're the cheapest, but that's true throughout Diamondhead," Grace said. "The people who have a lot of money, they don't want to pay anything."

According to the State Supreme Court, residents have no choice. The fire district can legally continue to collect the $20 monthly fee.

The attorney for the residents who sued the fire protection district said he is planning to appeal the supreme court's ruling.

One other note, the Diamondhead Fire Department was recently notified its state fire rating has jumped from a six to now a five, which means Insurance rates for residents will be going down.

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