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Meeting to hear fire district plea

For two weeks, Spring Hill firefighters have erected signs, passed out bumper stickers, mailed fliers and made phone calls. Their goal, quite simply, is independence from the county government.

Tonight, at what they are hoping will be a standing-room-only meeting at Springstead Theater beginning at 7, the firefighters will get a good idea as to the success of their two-week campaign.

And more important, they will get a good idea whether the people of Spring Hill agree with them.

"We're going to inform the public as to the benefits of being independent," said Eugene Wright, chairman of the five-member Spring Hill Fire and Rescue District Commission. "We're going to ask them to get back to their county commissioners and request that they give us our independence now."

For nearly two decades, the Fire and Rescue District has operated almost autonomously from the county, providing fire and ambulance service to all Spring Hill residents.

But last month, the Hernando County Commission voted to reorganize the structure of the district to resolve a dispute with the state about collection of property taxes.

Under the reorganization plan as proposed by the County Commission, the county would have more control over the district's operations and would be responsible for the distribution of tax revenues collected in the district for fire and rescue service.

Since the County Commission action, the more than 70 employees of the Fire and Rescue District have been fuming mad.

Their main concern is that the reorganization could make it possible for equipment paid for by Spring Hill residents to be used by _ or even transferred to _ other parts of the county. They also are afraid that because they basically have what amounts to a contractual agreement with the county, they could be ousted in favor of an outside company that could provide service more cheaply to Spring Hill residents.

"I just can't understand why they won't give us our independence," said Lt. Bob Coxe, president of the Spring Hill Firefighters Union.

Union members spent more than 200 hours over the past two weeks lobbying for support.

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