BEAVER LAKE (KFSM) -- Early voting is underway in several Northwest Arkansas elections and one of those is a fee increase for the Beaver Lake Fire Department.
The department is asking voters in the district for a $75 fee increase bringing their new yearly fee to $150.
Voters shot down an increase of $125 in July 2016.
Chief John Whisenant said it forced them to lay off their only full-time paid firefighter position, and rely only on nine volunteers and himself.
“Cutting that eight-hour firefighter changed our response times. We had an average of a five-minute response time last year. Once we cut that position the average response time went up to nine minutes, that`s the difference between life and death and the saving of your property,” Whisenant said.
The Beaver Lake Fire Department hasn't had a fee increase in a decade and their service calls have almost doubled since 2011, going from 285 calls in 2011 to 548 in 2016.
“Our volunteer resources both man power and financial resources are just not keeping at pace with the needs of our community and it is very important for the safety of everyone involved that we have this election and it be successful,” he said.
The friends of Beaver Lake Fire Department was created to help pass this fee increase. President Kent Sohosky said while $150 a year may seem like a lot, it actually isn't.
“I moved here two and a half years ago from the city of Rogers, which by the way incorporates and comes and helps us and we do the same with them and when the vote did not pass last July I was very very concerned as a citizen because I have a home that I want protected here,” Sohosky said.
With this increase they would be able to hire two full-time firefighters and replace critical equipment.