County continues fire study

Feb 9, 2010 Full story: Huntersville Herald 6

To eliminate funding shortages at local fire departments, Union County needs to implement a fire tax for all 18 departments, eliminating inadequate fire fees that result in the county having to bail out departments that don't receive enough money to pay their bills $700,000 this year.

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wesley chapel

Charlotte, NC

#1 Mar 1, 2010
Union county should look to fire districts like wesley chapel were they provide services for 2 cents per 100 valuation this equals about 85.00 year for a house worth 400K. If all the fire departments had their own districs this would work out fine. The county wants to fund all departments from one fund that means my fire tax will go from 2 cents to 15 cents to pay for these other departments that cant be funded by their own residents. I say merge these underfunded departments with the ones that have a district already.Fire fees might have worked when there was no one here but if we want to move forward all departments should have thier own districts and be accountable to thier residents not the county board of commissioners, fire service needs to stay out of the county politics.
Ames Turnout

Shelby, NC

#2 Mar 1, 2010
If I understand correctly, Union County employs a comprehensive mutual aid plan for all fire districts to assure adequate equipment and manpower are dispatched to fires, haz-mat emergencies and mass casualty events in the county. In other words, a fire or other emergency in the Wesley Chapel district receives response from WCVFD as well as resources pulled from surrounding districts. In the event of a major emergency, resources are dispatched from districts even far removed from the basic Wesley Chapel fire tax district to assist with the call when needed.

Considering this structure for response and insurance rating purposes, autonomy in fire district funding is a somewhat flawed concept. If each district only served their actual local circumstance, it might be applicable but that is not the case. The Union County VFD system needs to be funded and equipped by a comprehensive fire tax. A piece meal or band-aid approach is why we are where we are now. I do not relish being taxed for providing to smaller departments either but understanding these same smaller departments will in fact be part of a response to my property if needed, justifies the sacrifice we all must make to ensure the system is properly funded and prepared to handle emergencies when they arise.

Conversely, if we start splitting hairs over who pays what under a comprehensive plan, over an extended period, would not more densely populated and developed districts actually have a much higher demand for service? Given this premise and after providing original equipment and staffing costs, should districts that are more rural complain they in fact over time might be the ones subsidizing the system due to call volume comparison?

In closing I would say I was raised to help my neighbors as a tenant of common decency, this situation is no exception in my view…….
wesley chapel

Charlotte, NC

#3 Mar 1, 2010
wesley Chapel FD lets keep our district funding in the district that serves us best.

Wesley Chapel Fire District Receives New Rating After Inspection State Officials Award District a 6 Rating RALEIGH - North Carolina Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Jim Long announced today that the Wesley Chapel Fire District completed its routine inspection and received a 6 rating. The inspection, conducted by officials with the Department of Insurance Office of State Fire Marshal (OSFM), is required on a regular basis as part of the North Carolina Response Rating System (NCRRS). Among other things, the routine inspections look for proper staffing levels, sufficient equipment, proper maintenance of equipment, communications capabilities and availability of a water source.

The 6 rating is an improvement over the previous rating of 6/9S. The NCRRS rating system ranges from 1 (highest) to 10 (not recognized as a certified fire department by the state), with most rural departments falling into the 9S category. While lower ratings do not necessarily indicate poor service, a higher rating does suggest that a department is overall better equipped to respond to fires in its district. Higher ratings can also significantly lower homeowners insurance rates in that fire district.

"I'd like to congratualte Chief Byrum for his department's performance and for the hard work of all the department members," said Commissioner Long. "The citizens in Wesley Chapel Fire District should rest easy knowing they have a fine group of firefighters protecting them and their property in case of an emergency."

State law requires OSFM officials to inspect departments serving districts of 100,000 people or less, which makes up all but six of the state's fire districts. The Wesley Chapel Fire District is only the second fire district in Union County to receive a 6 rating for the entire district. Providence VFD is the other. The current rating for the fire district is 6/9S indicating that areas with hydrants are rated a 6 and those without are rated a 9S. The new rating of 6 benefits those homeowners in areas not covered by hydrants. The new rating takes effect on November 1, 2004 reducing insurance premiums for homeowners living in area without hydrants.

Homeowners should contact their insurance companies to ask about new premiums.

A 6 rating is the best rating for residential homeowners insurance. Any rating better than 6 only affects insurance premiums for commercial structures.

Two years ago, WCFD set a goal to improve the fire district's rating. The improved rating is the result of many hours of work by the 100% volunteer membership to upgrade the capabilities of the department through training, new trucks, and new tools and equipment. We also thank residents and property owners of the district for providing necessary funding through the Wesley Chapel Fire Tax District, generous donations and support for the WCFD BBQ fundraisers.

WCFD is committed to continuous improvement. And although we are pleased with the improved insurance ratings, this is just the first step. We have already begun planning to reach the next level.
Ames Turnout

Pfafftown, NC

#4 Mar 1, 2010
Wesley Chapel, your post certainly proves what many of us have known for years. Wesley Chapel VFD is indeed top shelf and beyond reproach in its service to the community and county. There are many that would maintain the Fire Service Study and criticisms leveled at the department are political axe grinding by some within the political community, frankly I do concur that assertion has validity and while the motivation is indeed questionable by some, this study does however present an opportunity to bring needed change to fire service funding. There is no doubt the individual fire tax district system is perhaps the fairest tax of all levied in our state. Of the five methods to provide fire services at the county’s disposal, it is also the most difficult to implement in obtaining the support of resident freeholders by petition to call for a referendum, as well as successfully getting the measure passed in these tough economic and anti-tax time in which we live.

Perhaps the solution is to seek a countywide tax district while maintaining a percentage based funding formula for individual districts based upon local legislation or contractual safeguards. That way, levels of service are improved while taxation is properly throttled. Besides, under the current method of fire fee funding, is not the shortfall being made up general property tax revenues? Aren’t we all already filling the void by doing so?

Be there no doubt, I am an ardent supporter of the Fire Service and have been for years. I in no way want to criticize or interfere with the progress and service of the WCVFD. Chief Byrum, Chief Nichols and Chief Rogers as well as many others in the department have nothing short my utmost respect and admiration for doing what fewer and fewer people are willing to do. My point is simply that maybe it is time to help others in the Fire Service along the path you guys have so well blazed! Your advice and counsel would be a valuable asset to the effort.
Fed Up Native

AOL

#5 Apr 3, 2010
If you think politics isn't already in the VFD's you must be smoking something other than Newports. The VFW's on the western side of the county are cesspools for politics and have been for years and that is why Bakers VFD couldn't be disbanded. When the VFD's started paying themselves and building multimillion dollar fire stations, complete with widescreen TV's and weight rooms, just so they could have a bigger fire station than the next VFD, at the expense of the people who pay property taxes, its time for the county commissioners to accept responsibility and reign it in. We don't need to see expensive fire trucks being driven to resturants for meals and snacks, many times miles from where the station is located. It is time for some accountability and countywide planning.
wesley chapel

Charlotte, NC

#6 Apr 8, 2010
Fed Up Native wrote:
If you think politics isn't already in the VFD's you must be smoking something other than Newports. The VFW's on the western side of the county are cesspools for politics and have been for years and that is why Bakers VFD couldn't be disbanded. When the VFD's started paying themselves and building multimillion dollar fire stations, complete with widescreen TV's and weight rooms, just so they could have a bigger fire station than the next VFD, at the expense of the people who pay property taxes, its time for the county commissioners to accept responsibility and reign it in. We don't need to see expensive fire trucks being driven to resturants for meals and snacks, many times miles from where the station is located. It is time for some accountability and countywide planning.
the problem is that departments without a tax district cant support themselves on a 50$ per home yearly fee. These departments should be merged so that there is enought tax base to support them. the districts that have a tax for example Wesley chapel the cost for service is .019 cents per 100 valuation. 400K home 76.00 year. Thats a deal no matter how much the fire house cost. Try concentrating on the factual numbers not the petty crybaby stuff most of the complainers talk about. these departments are run and maintained much better than any county agency or department when comparing tax dollars used. I dont think these five commisioners could run a lemonade stand without debt.

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