Lutz association may be on solid ground
By Jeff Odom
With economic uncertainty and future funding up in the air, some volunteer fire associations in Hillsborough County are going up in smoke.
That may not be the case in Lutz, though.
In a performance audit on the county’s six volunteer fire associations released in September, questions were raised about their need, mainly because of the cost to keep them running. Three of the associations were forced to cease operations and were taken over by paid staffs earlier this month.
But even with an uncertain future looming for others, the Lutz Volunteer Fire Association, which was founded in 1952, has been one of the most financially stable thanks in part to support from the community.
According to auditors, of the $150,832 in revenue the Lutz association brought in during the evaluation, $85,508 came from community support, membership dues and general donations.
The audit goes on to say that Lutz, “is the only (association) reporting significant ‘membership dues and assessments.’”
Jay Muffly, who serves as president of the Lutz association, said people have been very generous to the station and continue to be in spite of a down economy.
“Even in tough times, we still have community support,” Muffly said. “Even as neighborhoods (around Lutz) have changed, we’ve stayed in business, and the reason is because of the many members that support us as well as the community.”
Hillsborough Fire Rescue Chief Ron Rogers would not comment on the future of any specific volunteer facility, but said his department does not want to continue funding such stations anymore.
“We’re going to look at the options to give our citizens the best service,” Rogers said. “That might be the current volunteer model in some places, or it might be putting in paid personnel. We’re going to keep looking at it.”
Muffly said the department relies on association membership and fundraising events such as the grilled chicken dinners during the Lutz Independence Day celebration on July 4 to keep the station on good financial terms. It also does donation drives in the spring.
He said the association plans on expanding its fundraisers even further.
“The biggest thing is the support we have from those around the community,” Muffly said. “We’re doing membership drives, one boot drive in the spring this year, and we may try to do something with the arts and crafts show (at Lake Park) in December. … For the foreseeable future, Lutz will be in good shape, and that is because of our many members and community support. I can’t express that enough.”
Because the association is on solid financial footing, Muffly expects the station to continue operations. The association is still collecting memberships for the rest of this year and the next. Muffly said there is no deadline for turning in new memberships.
“We’re still in business,” Muffly said. “I can’t say enough about our members, and we appreciate everyone who sends in memberships. … I can’t speak for other associations, but we’ve been here forever, and we’re looking forward to continuing to be here.”
For more information and details on how to contribute to the Lutz Volunteer Fire Association, call (813) 949-2463.
—Editor Kyle LoJacono contributed to this report.