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Anyone who has lived in Spring Hill for more than a couple of years is probably familiar with the contentious nature of the Spring Hill Fire Rescue District. There seems to be little middle ground. Either you believe the operation works well, or you think it doesn't.

Which is why so many of the 66,000 residents served by the fire district are happy to see the Nov. 4 ballot referendum, in which they will be allowed to make the choice whether to abolish the fire commission and bring the district under total county control, or request that the Florida Legislature free it from any oversight other than that provided by the state.

Those who favor independence cite several reasons for their viewpoint. Since the early 1970s, they point out, the district has paid its own way, from buying buildings, fire trucks and equipment to staffing the 110 positions needed to run the round-the-clock operation.

Saying "no" to an independent district could mean less local representation for Spring Hill residents, district supporters say, and that would mean putting the operation in the hands of a county government that many believe doesn't have their interests at heart.

Opponents to independence argue that county oversight would actually save most taxpayers money in the long run by eliminating the duplication of services. Gone, too, would be a 911 dispatch service that is viewed by some residents as both unnecessary and cumbersome.

Perhaps most important, the move would free the business of putting out fires and saving lives from the political turmoil so often seen at meetings by the fire district's commission.

The issue of Spring Hill Fire Rescue's independence isn't a new one. The matter has come up twice before, and both times residents voted in favor of keeping things status quo - with county financial oversight, but allowing the fire commission to operate the district on a day-to-day basis.

Fast facts

The question

Pursuant to the "Independent Special Fire Control District Act," Chapter 191, Florida Statutes, the Florida Legislature has the power to create independent fire control districts by special act. Independent fire control districts have the power to levy special assessments, issue bonds, levy impact fees, and levy ad valorem property taxes. Based on the foregoing, should the Florida Legislature enact a special act creating an independent fire control district to encompass the geographic region of Hernando County commonly known as "Spring Hill?"

YES (for creation of the independent district)

NO (against creation of the independent district)