SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Over the past few weeks, many people received their fire fee bill which has led to even more controversy. WSAV spoke with a Chatham County resident who’s lived in the same home since 1999 and also owns one other property. 

Winston Davis said he went from owing just over $225 for both to owing more than $625 this year and he says it’s due within 30 days. 

“I just don’t have just $625 just laying around,” Davis said.

In 2021, Davis paid roughly $223 in fire service fees for his home in Chatham County but this year he owes more than double that amount.

“I’m a senior citizen, I’m disabled, and it’s not like I can go out there and pick up an extra job or pick up some extra finances to help with this situation,” Davis said.

Now, many residents like Davis want to know what’s driving up costs. WSAV checked in with Chatham County officials to learn more.

“Chatham Emergency Services had their own rate structure and it was really based more like a property tax on the value of your home,” said Linda Cramer, Assistant County Manager. “But the Board of Commissioners did not want to do a value based structure so instead they did this square footage bracketing calculation.”

You can see the new breakdown on the county website. Officials said the fee is now calculated based on the square footage of your property, which means some residents are seeing costs go up and others are seeing a decrease in their bill.

“It just kind of depends on the structures you have on your property, your home is one thing but also if you have other structures on your property like a storage shed that has a bunch of stuff in there that could cause a fire or burn in a fire, the square footage on those structures is also included,” Cramer said.

County officials say they are taking residents’ feedback into account and say you can appeal the fee within the first 30 days if you feel it’s been miscalculated.

“We knew when the board decided to go this way that it was going to be a difficult first year because we’ll be working out a lot of kinks,” Cramer said. “We’re here to insure public safety and our commissioners are most focused on that.”

But for now residents like Davis are worried about the immediate impact this increased fee could have.

“I’m on a fixed income,” Davis said.

If you have questions, want to submit an appeal or if you think your fee was miscalculated. You can do so on the Chatham County website. There you will also find a list of frequently asked questions and a detailed breakdown of the changes.