Union County Pulse
It’s been more than 27 years since Union County addressed fire service. Recently a fire study was completed that contains 200 pages of assessments and recommendations. But one issue cannot be addressed without creating a domino effect requiring attention to all issues. Until the county is ready to take action throughout the entire county the fire study will remain good bedtime reading.
This presents an opportunity for Weddington to take over its fire service issues and deal with them at a local level. As Mayor Nancy Anderson states, “The citizens of Weddington should be the ones who determine the quality of service they want and how much they are willing to pay for it. In general, government seems to work best if you can push the decision making authority as close to the affected citizens as possible.”
Having the town control fire service tax rates is a good “check and balance” for a fire tax system that tends to encourage spending by fire departments. If the departments know that the town will manage revenues to them, they may be more frugal in their spending. At least they will need to justify spending before the fact rather than after.
Becoming a municipal fire district is not the same as becoming a full fledged Weddington fire department. As a municipal fire district each fire department will still operate independently and each fire department will be needed to service the town. We are fortunate to have three outstanding fire departments and this will not change in the near future. Down the road if Weddington decides it wants to transition into a Weddington Fire Department it will have prepared the way, but the town is currently not large enough to support the infrastructure required to justify this action.
A municipal fire district allows the town to manage fire taxes which means that the entire town will be equally taxed rather than each fire district charging different amounts for service. Currently the Stallings fire district uses a combination of a fire fee and a fire tax. The Providence fire district uses a fire fee to acquire revenue. The Wesley Chapel fire district uses a fire tax rate currently at 2.2 cents per $100 of assessed property value.
In addition to this, both the Stallings and Providence fre departments offer 24/7 staffed coverage which means they both have firefighters and emergency medical personnel at the station. Wesley Chapel currently does not offer this service.
Under the designation of a munic ipal fire district the town will have the authority to make Providence the primary responder and require that two departments are called to both fire and medical emergencies. Currently, two departments are only called on fire and traffic emergencies … not medical emergencies. The entire town will benefit with in-station coverage no matter what area you live.
The Wesley Chapel fire department may still be the first responder to arrive at your emergency. If you live closer to that station this will probably be the case. But you can feel comfortable knowing that two stations are responding to your emergency, and in the event the closer station is managing another call or unavailable for some other reason, you will still receive outstanding service! This could become a new quality of service not available anywhere else in Union County!
The goal is to provide the fastest and highest emergency service for the entire town; not to eliminate service, but to enhance service. The town will have the flexibility it needs to determine (with assistance from the State Dept. of Insurance and the State Fire Marshall) which fire station can best service your home. These determinations will be based on distance and response time.
Come be a part of history in the making. Oct. 10 at 4:30PM the Weddington Town Council will hold a joint session with the County Commissioners and then at 7PM will hold their regular meeting. Both meetings will be at Helms Hall located at Weddington United Methodist Church in downtown Weddington. Pick one or both to attend and watch our town take a major step forward to protect and manage our fire and emergency services.
Union County Pulse