Providence VFD renovations move closer

WEDDINGTON – Town council members in Weddington voted unanimously on Monday, June 10, for a resolution supporting the renovation of the Providence Volunteer Fire Department’s facility. But town leaders stopped short of officially agreeing to pay for the work and eventually take ownership of the Hemby Road building.

Town leaders and staff have been working with the fire department on an agreement that would transfer ownership of the property and facility used by the fire department to Weddington in exchange for town money being used to pay off the renovation loans. While the resolution adopted during the last meeting is non-binding, leaders do plan to work out a long-term, binding agreement in the coming months.

The move is a safe step toward a final solution for the fire department and town without tying the town’s hands just yet. It will serve more as notice to the bank that the town supports the work before a loan is issued.

“Our attorney worked with our finance office and our fire department liaison and the fire department and their bankers, and that was the direction that they told us that we needed to go,” Mayor Pro Tem Daniel Barry said.

Providence VFD is currently working out the details for a loan for about $800,000 from BB&T for renovations on the front facility.  The department has already made an agreement with Weddington leaders for funding for the renovations to the rear building on the property.  The agreement states that the town will pay up to $220,000 for the work, although estimates came in lower than that. Town leaders wanted to prepare for any unseen changes that might occur.

“In order to accommodate the structure loan, the bank would like to see the town adopt a resolution acknowledging historically what the town has been with its relationship with Providence Volunteer Fire Department,” town attorney Anthony Fox said.  “… Whether the town is in support of the improvements being proposed, acknowledging the amount of the improvements that are being proposed, acknowledging the cost of the improvements that are being proposed and the cost of the loan.”

Council decided to move forward with the resolution instead of an agreement because the fire department needed to start construction so the project can be completed by the fall.  However, council still plans to form an agreement with Providence VFD. Residents will have a chance to ask questions and voice concerns about the agreement prior to it being approved.

“We didn’t have the time necessary to get through the different phases of the purchase agreements, and (Providence VFD) needed to get started,” Barry said.  “… I believe that it’s been the intent of the town council to acquire that property.”

In return for the property and facility the fire department operates out of, the town would acquire the renovation loan and create a long-term agreement with Providence VFD.  Currently the town renews its agreement with the department annually, but Jack Parks, president of the Providence VFD, said the department would like something more stable than an annual agreement if the deal does go through.

“We want security for what has been built, to make sure it’s secured for the future,” Parks said.

The property is currently valued at $1 million and after renovations will be worth $1.5 million, according to Fox.

Mayor Walker Davidson said at the meeting he does not agree with the current arrangement with the fire department being negotiated, having previously suggested paying for the project out of the town’s savings account.  Davidson does not have a vote.

“I threw out in March $750,000 in cash (for the project) because we have plenty of money in the fund balance,” Davidson said.  “We can get it done quickly.  We could be already moving forward at this point, and there was no contingency on it.”

Many council members have expressed they didn’t decide to go that route because council members want the town to have received something in return for their investment into the Providence VFD.

A timeline for the creation of the agreement has not been set, but council, town staff, staff from BB&T and the fire department will begin working together to form an agreement that will then be presented to the town and opened for public discussion.

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