July 10, 2019 10:17:27 AM
Mississippi State University is officially out of the firetruck buying business, but will pay more for fire protection after the university and the city of Starkville approved a new inter-local agreement for fire protection service.
The Starkville Board of Aldermen voted unanimously to approve the new agreement on the recommendation of Fire Chief Charles Yarbrough during its July 2 board meeting.
"I think this is going to work a lot better for both parties," Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk said. "It was really well past time to have a new agreement, so I'm happy we were able to work with the university to get this done."
Under the original agreement, the university compensated the city for fire service with fees and an agreement to purchase a fire truck for the city every 15-to-20 years, said Yarbrough.
Under the new agreement, the university's fees will go up, but it will not be required to purchase fire trucks in the future.
This year, the university's fire service fee was $295,597.
Beginning next year, the fees go up incrementally -- from $400,000 in 2020 to $650,000 in 2023.
Yarbrough said the new contract allows the department more resources and flexibility.
"This is just a better way to do things," Yarbrough said. "It gives us more control of when we get a new truck and allows us more resources for meeting whatever needs might arise."
Beyond the change in the fees, Sistrunk said the new agreement will be easier for both the university and city to navigate.
"When the contract was put in place decades ago, Starkville had three or five paid firemen. Everything else was volunteer. As the years went by, the contract was amended so many times that it was hard to get through. This is a much cleaner contract and I think both the city and Mississippi State will benefit from having that."
Mississippi State spokesman Sid Salter said the new contract is similar to that which the University of Mississippi has with the city of Oxford.
"We have historically supported the concept of mutually beneficial fire protection and believe this new contract is the next logical step in that relationship," Salter said.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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