Bill to separate fire districts in West Florence heading to Governor's desk

A State Senate bill that would create a separate fire district in West Florence has passed third and final reading and will soon head to Governor Nikki Haley's desk.

Representative Phillip Lowe said the bill will now be ratified and is expected to on the Governor's desk Thursday afternoon. He expects Haley to sign the bill into law.

Lowe sponsored the bill after hundreds of residents called and emailed him about Florence County's new consolidated fire district which merged six districts into one.

West Florence residents were upset that the new district meant higher taxes for them and Lowe argued that West Florence residents were being unfairly taxed under the consolidated district.

"The citizens of West Florence want to maintain an independent and an autonomous fire department over there. And to do so we can have them elect five commissioners that can determine the needs of West Florence. And set mileage rates for those needs. And take care of the problems in the West Florence area. It would restore it to what it has been for the last 40 years. As an independent district instead of being consolidated. So that they would be able to have a board to that managed and ran it and managed it. And taxed people for an appropriate amount that would be needed within the West Florence Fire District..," said Rep. Lowe , District 60 (R).

Florence County Council Chairman James Schofield believes the consolidation plan is fair all across the board.

He said it creates an equal tax rates throughout the county since all tax payers would pay the same rates.

Schofield said, "County council is trying to tax people at the same mileage rate for the same service. Just like we do every other service and that's fair. To secede from this county and say we can get a better deal because we got a lot of people and a lot of valuation out here and we can do it cheaper. It's not right."

He also said the bill hurts economic development in Florence County since it does not allow the City of Florence to annex any more land in West Florence.

There will be a community meeting to discuss the bill at West Florence Fire Department on Pine Needles Road at 6 Thursday night.