Another great year at the MAFPD annual conference.  I enjoyed the discussions during my “Return of the Roaring 20’s” presentation and the turnout was great!

By the way, if you are a firefighter and have not had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Sarah Jahnke speak on firefighter health and well-being, you absolutely must make

*Firehouse Legal blog posts provide information only, and are not legal advice. For specific legal advice contact your attorney. No seriously, contact them, they’ll be happy to hear from you.*

So, let’s start with the threshold question: Does the FLSA apply to fire departments? The answer, as most everyone knows at this point, is yes

Over the last few years I have spent significant time preparing and presenting discussions that have tackled broad scale legal topics within the fire service. I would sometimes spend my entire presentation time speaking on a single topic: Consolidations, the impact of Missouri’s medical marijuana legalization, fire department budget and finance issues, to name a

Hello and welcome to my little blog about the fire service and the law. I sincerely hope you will find it informative, thought provoking, or at least entertaining. If I can accomplish any of those three goals then I will consider this adventure a success. 

This blog is the product of several different things. First, a recognition on my part that over time representing the fire service, many of the same questions/issue come up time and again.  Second, the non-stop encouragement (See: Badgering; hounding) of my colleague Aaron Lukken, author of The Hague Law Blog, who believed beyond a shadow of a doubt I should be blogging, and making my voice heard. Ultimately however, it was the third reason for starting this blog that tipped the scale and sent me over the edge into the blogosphere.  
Continue Reading Welcome to Firehouse Legal!

Question of the day: If there is no business to conduct (which, in rural areas is a distinct possibility) then why have a monthly meeting? Is it not a colossal waste of time and effort? 

The answer to the first question is because it’s the law. The answer to the second question, in typical lawyer fashion, is maybe yes and mostly no. And the second answer probably changes based on District size and workforce.

Fire Protection Districts in the state of Missouri are mandated to hold at least one meeting per month. If you’re curious, the statutory reference is contained in RSMO 321.200.1.  Its right there in the first line and its pretty clear: “…the board shall meet regularly, not less than once each month.” This statute sets the minimum of course, and districts may meet more regularly as they deem necessary in the interests of the District. However, at least one monthly meeting is always required. 
Continue Reading If There’s Nothing to Do, Why do we Meet? (Hint: It’s the Law)

Based on my experiences, I believe that even amongst those who have served as fire chiefs or elected board members there are still some fundamental misconceptions or downright falsehoods about fire protection districts.  So, what is a fire district? 

In Missouri at least (although the basic statutory schemes for fire districts are very similar across the United States) a Fire Protection District is a specifically geographically delineated political subdivision created by a vote of its citizens under the laws of the State of Missouri. It serves only a handful of purposes; namely the prevention and/or mitigation of fire.  This service can be expanded into the realm of other closely related functions such as rescue and hazardous materials response, or Emergency Medical Services (RSMO 321.010; 321.225). 
Continue Reading The Fire Protection District

In August of 2018 new legislation took effect in Missouri allowing special taxing districts greater control to recoup greater amounts from tax abated projects within district boundaries.  The changes enacted by SB 870 apply to RSMO chapters 99, 100 and 353 projects, subject to certain conditions. Despite the legislation being several years old I continue to speak with Districts that are not aware of the legislation, or don’t know how to protect themselves. 

In order to take advantage of the greater degree of control allowed for these projects fire districts must annually review and set a “reimbursement rate” (expressed as a percentage of the expected revenue from the project should it not be tax abated) for the upcoming year. Timing is important–This must be done prior to the determination of assessed valuation each year. It is also important to note there is no retroactivity provision (no mulligans!) so an approved reimbursement rate cannot be applied to previously approved projects within a District. The get-out-of-jail-free card for previously approved projects is amendments—any Chapter 99, 100, or 353 project amended after the passage of a reimbursement rate resolution would then be subject to the adopted reimbursement rate.  Once the reimbursement rate is set all jurisdictions with the power to approve a tax abated project within the District must be notified. 
Continue Reading Reimbursement rate resolutions and Missouri Fire Districts-protect yourself from the TIF