County to face continued fight from Fellsmere over fire hydrants

By Debbie Carson, Online Editor

FELLSMERE — Indian River County officials had 10 days to pay the balance the City of Fellsmere says it owes for maintaining the fire hydrants the county’s Fire Rescue Department uses. According to the city, the county failed to pay up and now it plans to bring the county before the city’s Special Master to resolve the $12,800 dispute.The City of Fellsmere sent the county a courtesy warning of being in violation of the city’s code for failing to pay the $225 per fire hydrant. The county had 10 days to comply or face a hearing in front of the city’s Special Master – an attorney tasked with reviewing code enforcement violations within Fellsmere. The next step is for the city to send a notice of violation to the county regarding payment, according to City Manager Jason Nunemaker.

“Once that notice has been sent out a hearing will be set in 30 days,” Nunemaker said.

When that hearing will be held not yet known. And whether or not the county would attend, remains to be seen.

Jason Brown, the county’s budget director, told last month that he doubted the city’s special master would have any authority over the county.

Larry Napier, Fellsmere’s finance director, later told that if Fellmere’s City Attorney Warren Dill did not believe the special master held any power over the county, he would not have put the City of Fellsmere on the track it currently is on.Brown maintains that state law dictates that municipal-owned fire hydrants – such as the ones in Fellsmere – are the financial responsibility of the municipality.

Napier disagrees. He has said that because Indian River County Fire Rescue is the agency that uses the city’s hydrants, it should be the county who pays. To do otherwise would require the city’s residents to pay twice in the form of higher city taxes as well as the taxes they pay that go into the county’s Emergency Services District.

Regardless of how the issue is resolved, Napier said that the city would not lock Fire Rescue out of the hydrants for public safety reasons. He also said that the city would continue to maintain and flush the hydrants and reserve the necessary amount of water to be pulled from the hydrants in times of fire emergencies.***Related article: County won’t pay $12,800 to Fellsmere for fire hydrants

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