MONONGALIA COUNTY, W.Va. The city of Morgantown has made a request to join the list of departments included in the Fire Protection Levy on the May Ballot.

“We can only deal with what is presented to us,” Monongalia County Commissioner Jeff Arnett said. “We’re not into the formation process of it, nor are we in the business of telling entities to put in their levies,” Commissioner Arnett said.

Morgantown officials released the following written response:

As city and community leaders, our top priority is the safety and well-being of Mon County residents. We are dedicated to ensuring that all residents in Mon County receive excellent fire services. Currently, we are actively engaged in discussions with various stakeholders regarding the upcoming renewal of the Fire Service Levy. Our focus is on working diligently to support and enhance all fire departments in the county, empowering them to effectively fulfill their crucial roles in safeguarding our community. These discussions are ongoing as we remain committed to finding the optimal solution for the benefit of all Mon County residents.

Monongalia County Commission President Sean Sikora explained in writing that the commission only provides “administrative oversight and not one of an excess levy proposition developmental nature.” He detailed that the commission is not involved in the decision-making process but is responsible for “due diligence regarding the applicants standing to be an applicant or responsible entity for an excess levy.”

President of the Monongalia County Volunteer Firefighters Association, Mickey Rinehart, said in 2016, the city declined being included in the list because they were moving toward their own fire fee. Rinehart said the letter he received a day before the Wednesday meeting was the first communication about the levy since 2016.

“The initial thought was that if we didn’t do any increases, that would actually cut funding that would come to the volunteer fire departments,” Rinehart said. “We were actually going to lose roughly $10,000 to $15,000 for each department, and that would be a big hit to each of the departments in the county.”

Currently, the levy funds 12 volunteer fire departments: the Mon County Hazmat Team, the Brush Fire Team, and the county association. Rinehart said they’ll have to come up with a way to slice the pie into 16 pieces with 15 business days left until draft documents are due to the county commission.

“Now, we’re going to have to look at the figures and refigure and do what we need to do,” Rinehart said. “The biggest thing is the unknown of what the city wants from us—that’s the big thing; they’ve never contacted us.”

The letter from the city to commissioners dated January 3, 2024 said, in part, that there are more than 30,000 businesses and residents in the city limits paying property taxes that do not benefit from collections for the excess levy now in effect, passed in 2020.

“When those residents are going over to the Morgantown Mall or Mylan Park, they’re being protected by volunteer firefighters, so they are getting a benefit through this fund as well,” Rinehart said.

Rinehart said meetings have been ongoing about excess levy language, and an increase is being considered. The cost of insurance, equipment, certifications, and training has escalated substantially since 2020 for all departments.

“We were talking about moderate increases in the beginning, but now with the city coming on board, that has to go up some more just to be able to cover what the volunteers are receiving now at least,” Rinehart said.