Section 45-11-140Forest fire protection.
(a) The County Commission of Chilton County is authorized, when the need exists, to provide protection against forest fires in Chilton County by participating in the Alabama Forestry Commission's fire protection program in the manner hereinafter specified.
(b)(1) After the Chilton County Commission has determined that such a need does exist in Chilton County, the county commission may, in the manner hereinafter specified, provide for a financial charge or tax to be paid by the owners of forest lands located in Chilton County for the use of the land for timber growing purposes amounting to the whole or any part of the cost of such fire protection program, but not in excess of ten cents ($.10) per acre, provided such financial charge or tax is not greater than the benefit accruing to such forest lands due to the availability of such fire protection.
(2) "Forest lands" as used in this section, shall mean any land which supports a forest growth, or which is being used or reserved for any forest purpose. "Forest lands" as used in this section, shall not include any lands primarily used for residential purposes nor shall it include any publicly owned lands.
(c) The need for such a financial charge or tax to provide forest fire protection within the county shall be determined by the county commission after a public hearing is held thereon. Notice of such public hearing shall be given by the county commission for a period of two consecutive weeks by advertisement in a newspaper of general circulation in Chilton County. Such advertisement must indicate the date, time, and place of the hearing, the manner proposed to finance such fire protection program, and the part of the cost of such program that is proposed to be paid by the owners of forest lands. Any person owning forest land in Chilton County may appear in person or by attorney at such time and place and make defense against such financial charge or tax or the amount thereof. After such hearing the county commission shall determine whether or not a need exists for such a charge or tax; and if a need is found to exist for such financial charge or tax, the county commission shall determine the amount of such financial charge or tax and enter on the minutes of the county commission an order fixing such financial charge or tax.
(d) Any such financial charge or tax fixed as provided in subsection (c) shall be payable at the same time and in the same manner as county taxes and the owners of the forest lands, as herein defined, shall make report of same to the Tax Assessor of Chilton County at the time fixed by law for making return of the property of such property owner. Financial charges or taxes levied shall constitute a lien on the property against which they are charged or taxed. In the case of default in the payment of such financial charge or tax the land may be sold in the same manner and under the same conditions that lands are sold for the satisfaction of liens for county ad valorem taxes and redemption from such sale may be effected in the same manner as is provided by law for redemption where land is sold for nonpayment of ad valorem taxes. Provided, however, effective October 1, 1990, and each year thereafter, all property owners owning up to 50 acres of land who are exempt from the payment of state taxes because of age or a handicap are hereby exempt from the payment of the financial charge or tax provided in this section.
(e) The Tax Assessor of Chilton County shall be charged with the duties outlined in this section and shall have the authority to appoint agents and delegate authority to individuals to search out forest lands in Chilton County, determine the area and owners thereof, and report same to the Tax Assessor of Chilton County who shall be authorized, after notice to such owners by publication thereof not less than four consecutive weeks in a local newspaper of general circulation in Chilton County, Alabama, and herein before the county commission if so requested by such owners, to place the financial charge or tax against the forest lands as may be determined by the report of such agents or the determination of the county commission. The determination shall be made on or before October 1, 1990.
(f) All monies accruing to Chilton County shall be placed in the general fund of the county and shall only be spent by the county commission in participating in the Alabama Forestry Commission's forest fire protection in Chilton County. Upon being collected, said monies shall be promptly paid over to the Alabama Forestry Commission, or to such fund as may be designated by the State Forester, for use in the local forest fire protection program in the county. Any unexpended balance in such fund, at the end of any fiscal year, shall remain therein for use during the ensuing fiscal year.
(g) The County Commission of Chilton County is authorized to remove such financial charge or tax, or to raise or lower such finance charge or tax within the maximum limit stated in this section, after the county commission has determined that the financial charge or tax is no longer needed or should be raised or lowered. The county commission shall hold public hearings to determine whether or not the financial charge or tax is still needed or should be raised or lowered. Procedures for such public hearing shall be the same as those in subsection (c).
(Act 88-598, p. 926, §§1-7; Act 90-279, p. 343, §1.)