Commissioners want to restructure board
County commissioners want to turn the fire commission into an advisory board, where county commissioners would not serve as members.
The board voted unanimously during their Tuesday, Jan. 3 meeting to have staff alert the fire commission of possible changes, including removing the requirement that a county commissioner serve on the committee, as well as requesting that the remaining committee members elect a new chairman. If the changes are approved by the fire commission, then it would come back for a final vote at the next county commission meeting.
“What led to this is the lack of framework for that committee,” commissioner Jonathan Thomas said. “It is a puppet on a string. Seldom is there a lot of dissension or debate.”
Due to the lack of a defined purpose, Thomas said, the fire commission becomes whatever the county liasion wants it to be. Thomas currently serves as committee liaison and Tracey Kuehler held the position before him.
“I think it’s a good idea to do something with that committee, so they can do something with (the fire study),” Kuehler said. “Serving on that board, we had discussions on how to figure out what it was the fire commission should be doing.”
The county has multiple issues to address, when it comes to fire service needs. That includes what to do with the fire study, which called for a merger between Providence and Wesley Chapel departments, as well as between the Bakers and Stallings departments. Merger talks repeatedly fell through between Providence and Wesley Chapel in 2011, as the two sides couldn’t agree on what form a joint department would take in regards to 24-7 coverage, staffing and other issues. Now the town of Weddington is looking at options regarding a municipal fire district.
Other departments in the county also face funding problems. Allens Crossroads had to receive an extra $39,413 from the county in order to meet budget, despite cutting more than $49,000 in expenses since 2008. Also Wingate’s department has seen its budget climb an estimated $60,000 since 2008.
Thomas said he felt it was counterproductive to sit as part of a committee that was supposed to make recommendations on matters to the full county commission.
“There’s really no set agenda (and) I felt at the time it was not serving the people with an unbiased opinion,” Thomas said. “I feel like it needs to be unabated, unedited, with concerned citizens on the board.”
Commissioner Kim Rogers echoed the arguments from Thomas, saying that she had similar concerns about serving as the county liaison to the Community Trustee Council, that helped make recommendations about CMC-Union.
“I don’t necessarily oppose it (but) I’m not ready to approve it,” Rogers said of changes to the fire commission.
County commissioners discussed additional changes that could potentially be made to the fire commission, including revising the scope of the group and possibly turning them into an advisory board, like the planning board. Also with the elimination of the county commission liaison, Thomas suggested keeping the number of fire commission members at seven, to avoid any potential for a tie vote on an issue.