Since two of his firefighters suffered minor burns at a fire this summer, the plan of new Joseph Fire Chief Tom Clevenger to gradually replace the department's turnouts - yellow fireproof uniforms -has gained urgency.

He approached the Joseph City Council last week with a comprehensive resolution, which the council passed at the end of the Sept. 3 meeting. It raises the rates of rural fire contracts to $120 per residential customer (up from $100) and $150 for commercial customer outside the city limits (up from $120). Also included in the resolution, 2009-14 was the standardization of many rural contract fees, based on a more realistic assessesment of what supplies, man hours, equipment and gasoline actually cost; reduction of the "free" hours provided under the contract from two to one; and a range change from "within a nine mile radius of Joseph" to "at the discretion of the Joseph Fire Chief or his designee."

During discussion of the fee hikes, Clevenger explained that they would raise approximately $6,600 a year, enough to pay off a bank loan he'd like to see the city take out to buy 11 new turnouts and 17 sets of boots and helmets. Wildhorse Foundation has granted Joseph $8,341 to purchase six new turnouts.

Clevenger said his original intention was to replace six turnouts a year, for the next three years.

"Now I feel that it's a safety issue. I don't want the responsibility for our people getting burned," Clevenger said. He added that all three local banks were willing to give Joseph a very good loan deal.

City recorder Noma McDaniels said that a supplemental budget would have to be passed, both to receive the new money and to expend it. One other possibility would be to buy the turnouts out of contingency money, since it is already in the budget, and then make adjustments next year.

In the end, the council passed the new rural contract fees resolution unanimously, and agreed to continue the discussion on how to buy the needed turnouts at the October meeting.

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