BONIFAY – A long-dormant issue will soon appear once again on Holmes County voter ballots.
Holmes County Commissioners voted in a January 30 meeting to place the creation of a Municipal Service Benefit Unit (MSBU) as a referendum on the August 28 primary ballot.
An MSBU is a tax district within which funds are raised to provide services to the residents in that designated region. However, the MSBU is not an entity unto itself. Ultimately, all responsibility for the MSBU area falls back on the county commissioners.
An example of an area MSBU is Sunny Hills, located in Washington County. Currently, the Washington County collects about $32 a year from Sunny Hills property owners who own lots on paved roads, and that money is used to provide services such as mowing, streets lights, and some general appearance maintenance to those living in that designated area.
If implemented, the MSBU would levy special assessments to fund special services within the unincorporated areas of Holmes County, specifically focusing on the fire services. Commissioners hope to create a Fire Service District within the unincorporated areas to enable better fire service throughout the county by using the levies to increase funding to volunteer fire departments.
The measure could also lead to reduce insurance premiums because improved fire services would potentially result in an improved Insurance Service Office Rating (ISO), which ranks fire protection districts based on factors such as availability of fire department resources, water systems in the area, and connectivity to emergency communication centers. Because insurance companies typically use a community’s ISO rating as risk evaluation criteria when setting premiums, home and business owners in the fire district could see some savings on their policies.
If the proposal sounds familiar to Holmes County voters, it is likely because it also appeared on a ballot nearly 30 years ago.
Voters approved a similar measure in 1990, but the MSBU was never developed.
County Attorney Brandon Young cautioned the board against abiding by voter opinion that was last voiced nearly 30 years ago. Based on his advice, commissioners agreed to seek voter input via the referendum.
In other business, Deal Drive residents came before the board in regards to request the road be milled. Danny Deal stated he and three other residents would be willing to pay half the cost if the county would pay the other half. The total cost to the county would be roughly $1,500 to come out of road maintenance materials funds.
Commissioner Mickey Locke stated that he was for the idea because not many residents make that kind of offer.
"Most people want us to come fix their road completely on the county’s dime," said Locke. "We never have anyone that is willing to share the cost, so I’m all for it."
Commissioners approved the measure.
The board also approved using Regions Bank to finance the cost differential of trading in model-year 2017 dump trucks for the purchase of five 2018 models. At an annual percentage rate of 2.06 percent on $717,500, the first annual payment is deferred for 12 months.
In other business, law firm Bryant & Higby out of Panama City was approved for hire to represent the county in the opioid epidemic lawsuit.
Holmes County Board of County Commissioners will meet again in regular session at 9 a.m. on February 13.