Board told multiple issues coming this year
A revamped fire commission will be asked to weigh in on multiple issues during the coming year. County commissioner Jonathan Thomas told board members during a special Wednesday, Jan. 11 meeting their expertise would be needed, with items ranging from the fire district lines to the future of the Providence fire department.
“We’ve got a lot coming down the pipe,” Thomas, the county commission’s current fire liaison, told the board.
Commission members will be asked to look at 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 including a switch to a municipal fire district.
Thomas also mentioned that board members would be asked to look at how rural departments should be funded. 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.
Another reason for the called meeting was to get the board’s approval on proposed 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. Thomas told board members that he felt the group should act as an advisory board, instead of running as dictated by the county liaison.
Commission member and Hemby Bridge Fire Chief Johnny Blythe also suggested the group take this year to further amend its charter.
“That’s outdated,” he said of the charter, written in 1997. “The fire service in Union County doesn’t do half of what it says.”
Board members agreed to remove the county commission liaison from the group, permanently reducing the membership from eight to seven. They also set a Feb. 23 meeting date, to elect a chairman and vice chair.