August 26, 2014 - St. Louis Post Dispatch

JENNINGS - Jennings will give up its city fire department after 67 years and join the Riverview Fire Protection District on Sept. 1, officials announced at the City Council session Monday night.

Voters approved the change by a 68 percent majority in the Aug. 5 election.

Jennings was no longer to afford its own fire service, the council concluded. The city will save more than $750,000 annually, even allowing for the removal of the quarter-cent fire sales tax, and the fee that neighboring Flordell Hills paid for protection.

Jennings' 11 firefighters will become employees of the district on Monday. Their pay rates will not be changing immediately, but that will be subject to negotiation beginning in 2015. District pay rates are higher than what the city had, although the gap between city and district departments is less than in other parts of St. Louis County.

Jennings property owners will begin paying the current $2.56 per $100 assessed valuation fire district property tax, on bills payable by Dec. 31. On average, tax bills will rise more than $200. The city will continue to collect at its own $1 rate.

Flordell Hills will begin using the district on a contract basis, as it did with Jennings. A vote for Flordell Hills residents to enter the district may be in the future, district chief Joe Bommarito said.

It was also announced that the long-awaited White Castle restaurant - Jennings' first - which was approved last October but has already been delayed because of road issues, now is delayed due to the civil unrest in neighboring Ferguson. The location is 5231 Jennings Road, just north of Interstate 70. The decision was made by the White Castle corporate office, city officials said.

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July 15, 2014 - KTVI

JENNINGS, MO. - The city of Jennings is asking voters to consider outsourcing fire services to the Riverview Fire Protection District.

Voters will head to the polls on August 5th for a measure the mayor says needs to be passed.

"We're balancing our budget on reserves right now and reserves don't last forever," said Jennings Mayor Benjamin Stutphin.

The mayor says the plan will save his city approximately $700,000 a year by shifting the fire duties to Riverview. The flip side is Jennings citizens will be pay more. The city estimates the average home in Jennings is worth $50,000. If Prop R passes, the city says a person owning a home worth $50,000 would pay an additional $237.50 a year.

The city held a forum Tuesday night at city hall. Some citizens spoke against the outsourcing. Some had concerns over their property taxes increasing.

Others questioned whether the city's financial status was as dire as the mayor claims.

A second forum will be held at city hall Saturday at 10 am.

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June 9, 2014 - KMOV

JENNINGS, MO. - Voters in Jennings will get to decide if the city will dissolve their fire department in August.

Jennings officials said the city can save money if voters approve Proposition R. If voters support the measure, the Riverview Fire Protection District would provide protection for the city. However, property taxes on Jennings residents would rise. For example, the owner of a home valued at $50,000 would pay $20 more per month. A man who owns two homes told News 4 his property taxes would rise by $350.

If voters approve the measure, Riverview would receive a new fire truck. City leaders told News 4 the city would save money, and be protected by a larger fire department. Firefighters told News 4 they strongly support the measure.

Residents will get to vote on Proposition R August 5. Jennings is holding two town hall meetings at Jennings' City Hall Tuesday July 15 at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday July 19 at 10:30 a.m. City hall is located at 2120 Hord Avenue.

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April 29, 2014 - St. Louis Post Dispatch

JENNINGS - A proposal to merge the city of Jennings into the Riverview Fire Protection District will be on the Aug. 5 ballot, the City Council decided in a 6-2 vote Monday night. The district adjoins Jennings on its northeast side.

The city can no longer afford its own fire department, after 67 years, due to rising costs and stagnant revenue, officials say. If the merger is approved, Jennings residents would begin paying the district tax, which just rose 50 cents to $2.57 per $100 assessed valuation for residences. Giving up the fire department would save the city $750,000 a year. The city would drop its quarter-cent sales tax that now funds the department.

The district board accepted petitions with more than 2,100 signatures from city residents on April 15. That was part of the merger process, according to legal counsel from both governments.

Informally, the district board has indicated that it would keep open the Jennings fire station and seek to hire Jennings' current firefighters. The district has higher pay scales, but the difference is not as pronounced between the district and city as is found in some parts of St. Louis County, officials said.

The Jennings department is down to 13 firefighters. It had as many as 30 over the past two decades and there have been no pay rises for the past two fiscal years.

The measure would need simple majority approval to pass. It will not be on the ballot in other parts of the fire district.

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February 25, 2014 - St. Louis Post Dispatch

JENNINGS - Jennings firefighters got the go-ahead from their City Council on Monday night to start collecting petition signatures that could lead to a dissolution of the 67-year-old municipal department.

The petition call for a citywide vote on whether to merge the city into the Riverview Fire Protection District, the neighboring service to the northeast.

Jennings officials have pondered the increasing cost of maintaining their own department amid deficit spending. Giving up the fire department would save the city $750,000 a year.

If a proposed 50-cent increase on this April's ballot passes, Riverview district property owners will be paying a tax rate of $2.48 per $100 of assessed valuation. Jennings residents would pay the same tax and could potentially join the district by Dec. 31.

A total of 1,651 certified signatures will be needed to put the measure before the Circuit Court, and then a citywide election would be called for August. The petition drive is still subject to approval from the Riverview district's board, but that is likely to arrive within a week, said Rick Crady, Jennings' firefighter shop steward.

"Riverview has proposed the best offer to us of those districts we can merge with. They would maintain our house as their third fire house and take over payments on the city's newest fire engine," he said.

The Jennings department is down to 13 firefighters; it had as many as 30 within the past two decades. Firefighters have had no pay raises for the past two fiscal years.

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