CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WSAV) — It’s been a hot topic for several months and now those living in unincorporated Chatham county will end up paying more for the fire service fee.

County leaders say the decision boils down to the fact that nearly one-third of property owners were not already paying.

“Twenty-five to 30% have not been paying,” said County Manager Lee Smith. “Chatham Emergency Services came to the board of commissioners because literally a deficit of nearly $3 million was being created due to the lack of payment.”

There are two components, a flat rate of $100 plus a fee based on the square footage of your property which includes all structures that could possibly catch fire.

“It was the choice of the board of commissioners to look at square footage and land cost,” says Smith. “The board chose that option out of the six options. But this was the preference by the board of which they’ll be considering next Friday.”

Residents attending the virtual event were curious to know how property owners will be held accountable after so many got away with not paying a fee.

“This is basically going to be requiring everyone to have fire protection service for their house,” says Andre Pretorious, the assistant county attorney.

And if you don’t, you might have a day in court.

“A case could be brought to magistrate court where the judge can look at adding a fine on top of what you currently owe,” said Pretorious. “But the nice thing is that we wrote into the ordinance is if once you have paid your fee, then that case would be dismissed automatically.”

For an estimate for your fire services fee, you can email the county at firefee@chathamcounty.org. To learn more about the fire fee, click or tap here.