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      Darlington County fire chief wants tax raise to improve fire coverage

      Darlington County Fire District Interim Chief Kenny Stratton presented county council members with a proposal to raise taxes by five mills so he can build three new fire substations and buy more equipment for his department.

      "If this five mill increase is awarded to us by council, it's going to assure us that we're providing the safest level of protection for our firefighters as well as our the citizens as we continue to be a safe and effective fire district," said Stratton.

      A five mill increase averages to about $20 on a home valued at $100,000.

      The county has only raised taxes for capitol improvements for the fire department by two mills since the department formed in 1987, according to Stratton.

      "We've come a long way since 1987. You know we've drastically improved in our equipment in our training, in our fire stations. Number of members that type stuff. Just having a two mill increase it's kind of put us in a , kind of held us back from where we need to be," explained Stratton.

      The department says it needs to build substations in the communities of Ashland, Lamar and Lumber Road.

      He says homeowners in that area will have lower insurance because they'll be within five miles a fire station.

      Stratton says they have plans to try and get a bond if the tax increase passes.

      "If council approves the five mill increase, then we can go to a local lending institution who will set us up on a five year bond, take that money that's incurred of the five mill increase ,and do it over a five year period making five annual payments, which allows us to buy more equipment spaced out over a period of time," he said.

      Darlington County Council will discuss the proposed tax increase during a budget work session Monday.

      They will hold first reading on the budget in June.

      It has to be passed by July 1.