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City, EDA pleased with ruling on fire suit

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By The Staff

SHEPHERDSVILLE - For some taxpayers, it could mean a second payment.

For some potential businesses moving to the community, it could mean a major expense each year.

But, for now, the requirement of some property owners who are in the corporate limits of Shepherdsville to also pay a fire district tax is over.

Bullitt Circuit Judge Rodney Burress ruled on Tuesday afternoon that the city of Shepherdsville did have a regular fire department and against a 1999 lawsuit filed by Southeast Bullitt and Nichols fire taxing districts.

(See story in Wednesday, May 20, issue of The Pioneer News or go to www.pioneernews.net for details of the ruling.)

The lawsuit contended that the city had annexed property that was part of the fire tax districts and since the city’s fire department was not “regular” it could not take the land off the tax roll.

Shepherdsville councilmember Bonnie Enlow said she is very pleased with the judge’s decision, although she wished it could have come a little sooner.

Even before joining the city council, Enlow knew the hard work done by the firefighters and she said there was no question that it was a “regular” fire department.

“We knew all along that it was a regular fire department,” said Enlow. “The Shepherdsville fire department was there before some of these others and they were there to help the others out.”

Originally, the taxing districts of Zoneton and Mount Washington were also parties in the lawsuit.

However, Enlow and former city councilmember Trina Summers were part of a group that negotiated a settlement between Zoneton and Mount Washington.

She wished a similar agreement could have been worked out between the city and the other two districts.

“This thing should have been settled long ago,” said Enlow.

Although the decision will mean nothing financially for the city’s tax base, it will mean something to the firefighters who are proud of their department and will no longer have to suffer any criticism from others.

City attorney Bill WIlson said he never had any question that Shepherdsville had a regular fire department and there have been many strides made in the past few years.

“We’re happy to put this behind us,” said Wilson, who acknowledged that the plaintiffs could take the matter to the state court of appeals.

He wished the matter could have been settled earlier. Wilson said he’s seen the great working relationship that has resumed between Shepherdsville, Zoneton and Mount Washington since they worked out an agreement.

His hope is that the same working relationship can be restored with the city and Southeast Bullitt and Nichols.

The city has hired paid full-time firefighters and has a state-of-the-art fire station. Wilson said the department is ahead of schedule in hiring additional firefighters thanks to a federal grant.

“The mayor and the city council should be commended for putting a lot of money and effort into the fire department,” said Wilson. “It has been a regular fire department for many years.”

Bob Fouts, executive director of the Bullitt County Industrial Development Authority, said the double taxation in certain areas have been a major factor in some negotiations.

He said the Johnson and Johnson facility could have been unsuccessful due to the added fire district tax.

In today’s tight economic times, a company may not locate in Shepherdsville and its major industrial areas on Cedar Grove Road if faced with an additional annual fire tax that may be thousands of dollars.

“It is a factor,” said Fouts. “They all want to know their business expenses and you can’t hide it.”

Without any discussion about the pros and cons on the merits of the lawsuit, Fouts said it now a hurdle he doesn’t have to jump during negotiations.

Southeast Bullitt fire chief Julius Hatfield had no comment on Burress’ decision.

Shepherdsville mayor Sherman Tinnell did not return a reporter’s call seeking comment.