Vance County fire departments share concerns

Aug. 12, 2014 @ 05:03 PM

Local fire chiefs voiced some concerns Monday about county regulations and procedures.

They met with the public safety committee of the Vance County Board of Commissioners to finalize contracts for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, but many wanted to make sure the basics were covered first.

They brought up issues with finances and their desires for a change in the fire tax rate that would allow departments that get more calls, dispatch more responders and have a bigger area to cover get more money from the county.

The appropriation is currently a standard of 4 cents per $100 of valuation on property.

County fire marshal Harold Henrich suggested commissioners look at every department and set a custom amount for each.

Commissioner Dan Brummitt said the board had considered doing so in the past but felt more comfortable leaving the rate the same for all.

Jason Edwards, assistant chief of Bearpond Volunteer Fire Department, said he was concerned about the restrictions on paid staff, which says part-time employees can work no more than 1,000 hours over a 12-month period.

County Manger Jerry Ayscue said employment was set up to avoid costs for retirement and health care — required under state law for a position with more than 30 hours a week. But he said the county could reconsider if needed.

Some chiefs suggested revisions to their contracts, including the reimbursement rate from financial audits.

The board recently approved an advanced financial reporting system for fire and rescue squads, aiming to inspect the use of their appropriated funds.

The board sought bids for the audits and — using a lowest bid system — decided on a standard price of $1,375.

Ayscue said the departments can use the county’s bidding process or select their own, but regardless, the county will only pay that amount.

Representatives from the Cokesbury and Bearpond volunteer fire departments wanted a provision added to their contracts that stated the circumstances surrounding the county’s reimbursement for the financial reviews.

Brummitt and commissioner Gordon Wilder — the only commissioners present — agreed.

Ayscue said the committee meeting was called because the county had not received feedback from the volunteer fire departments after the contracts were sent out in May.

“Our full board expects those to be signed,” he said.

After committee members agreed to carry each department’s suggestions to the full board, they committed to quarterly meetings for more effective communication.

The next meeting will be Nov. 10 at 5:30 p.m.

 

Contact the writer at dhairston@hendersondispatch.com.