Pace voters opt for Special Fire District

Ramon Rios | @RamonrSrpg | 850-623-2120 |
Fire Chief Robbie Whitfield explains what happens next since the voters approved the Special fire District in Pace. [Ramon Rios\SRPG]

PACE — Pace residents will now control their own rates for fire protection and break away from MSBU funding following this year's election results. Pace voters approved the binding referendum for Pace to become a Special Fire District. This means the Pace Fire Rescue District can receive more funding.

“We look forward to building with the community," Fire Chief Robbie Whitfield said.

The passing of the referendum will allow the department to hire more firefighters, stay open 24-hours, 7-days a week, to open more fire stations, and to buy newer and better equipment. The new funding will also improve the Insurance Service Office (ISO) fire rating for Pace.

What is ISO? According to, it's a company that creates ratings for fire departments and their surrounding communities. The ratings calculate how well equipped fire departments are to put out fires in that community. The ISO provides this score, often called the "ISO fire score," to homeowners’ insurance companies. The insurers then use it to help set homeowners insurance rates.

The better-equipped your fire department is to put out a fire, the less likely your house is to burn down. That makes your home less risky, and therefore less expensive, to insure. Scores range from 1 to 10 with 1 being the best score. Pace's ISO rating is 4, just a few points from reaching 3 Whitfield said.

County commissioners recently approved an MSBU for Pace Fire Rescue and Whitfield said that would stay in place until the Special Fire District is implemented — probably by October 2019, when the new fiscal year starts, according to Whitfield.

Whitfield gave a short explanation of how the Special Fire District works. Right now county attorneys are reviewing everything to ensure it meets legal requirements. Next, a five-member board from the public, is named, probably by the BOCC. That board based on input by Whitfield will set the millage rate. The board cannot exceed a maximum of 2.50 mils in any one year. At the maximum rate, a homeowner would pay $250 in property taxes per $100,000 of home value.

Whitfield plans on renovating the Pea Ridge station and operating it 24 hours. The Wallace Station will also receive work on its facility. Future plans include a fire station in the Quintette Road area.