The Luther Town Board of Trustees held a lengthy discussion at its Oct. 12 meeting about what has become a controversial topic about subscriptions for service from the volunteer Luther Fire Department.
Concerns were expressed, questions were asked and explanations were shared and in the end, it looks like the citizens spoke, and the local government listened. At the recommendation of the town’s legal counsel, trustees, residents and the fire chief agreed to meet around the table and talk it out.
JT Langston is a retired volunteer LFD firefighter who lives in the unincorporated area of the fire district. He said he heard from a lot of his neighbors after letters showed up in the mailboxes of approximately 900 residents about paying to get fire service from the town’s fire department. He said many didn’t know anything about the revenue-generating proposal asking for a $250 subscription. The letter indicated that without paying, residents would receive a bill if the LFD answered a call on their property. He said that caused a stir and many had lots of questions. He said some checked state law and called their county government officials and the governor’s office.
Langston said he came as a mediator representing his neighbors. Those who live outside the official town limits in unincorporated areas of Okahoma County cannot vote in municipal elections for the town, such as for elected officials or other propositions.
“We’re not trying to get rich off of anybody in this town,” said Chief Joseph Figueroa who was hired as the new LFD leader three months ago following the retirement of former Chief John Brown. Chief Figueroa is the first paid chief since former Chief Jason Miller moved to lead the fire force in Marlow. “If anything, we would hire firefighters, a secretary, build new stations throughout the district, build more water towers. That’s the goal.”
Langston agreed that LFD provides a needed service and keeping unincorporated areas with LFD’s fire district would be a goa. He agreed to participate in more meetings with officials to work on the issue. Mayor Terry Arps said the letter was a starting point and the issue is not set in stone.
Beth Anne Child who serves as the attorney for the Town summed up. “Municipal officials have to make tough decisions. They have to question through whether there’s an ability to repair water or sewer lines, or fix a truck,” she said. “People don’t like to look at it, but this is a business,” she said the purpose is not to be unduly burdensome but to capture revenue so a town can provide fire protection and other services.”
As for the communication, Trustee Carla Caruthers commented that she welcomed Langston’s appearance at the meeting.
“We do finally have someone here. These meetings are open, and you are Luther,” she said. “We want you here. We have a website. The agenda is on social media. I have asked people to come repeatedly. Short of standing on the corner with a twirling sign, we want people to come to a meeting.”