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Bridgeport Mayor Reflects on WV Supreme Court's Decision to Uphold Fire Fees

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Wednesday will mark two weeks since the West Virginia Supreme Court issued a ruling upholding Bridgeport's fire fees. Now that it's all said and done, Bridgeport Mayor Mario Blount said he just wants residents to be safe.

In 2011, the Bridgeport Fire Department functioned as two separate parts: the paid firefighters, or employees of the city, who served the Bridgeport community; and those volunteer first responders who served outside city limits.

Then, Mayor Mario Blount said, that all changed.

"The state fire commission came to us and that we have to combine the volunteers and the paid into what we call the Bridgeport City Fire Department," said Blount.

That meant a $150 annual fire fee for those Harrison County residents who lived outside municipal boundaries but still within Bridgeport's first-due area.

Needless to say, some people were not happy.

"We had no say in it, nothing to do with it, didn't know anything about it until we started getting bills," said resident Roger Brown, in 2011.

"They wanted to be put into the first-due area of either Shinnston or Boothsville, which are both volunteer fire departments. We didn't have a problem with that. However, it's not our decision, it's the State Fire Marshal's decision," said Blount.

They flooded city council meetings and made signs protesting the fees. One couple even filed a lawsuit that made it all the way to the state Supreme Court.

"The state Supreme Court upheld the decision, and we were happy with that," said Blount.

Blount said there was still a 30 percent delinquent rate prior to the ruling, but that more people are starting to pay, and he reminded them that 100 percent of their money will be used for their protection.

"When you want to take that chance, that you may never need the Bridgeport City Fire Department, that's fine, but remember: it's about the protection and preservation of life and property," said Blount.

We did reach out to those who filed the lawsuit and their lawyer, but our calls went unreturned.