Public hearing scheduled for Providence VFD agreements

WEDDINGTON – After months of discussion between the Providence Volunteer Fire Department and Weddington Town Council, a public hearing and vote will take place on Sept. 9, a Monday, to finalize the two-part agreement.

After learning that the building at 5025 Hemby Road needed extensive renovations, Providence VFD officials approached the town to discuss possible finance options for the project.  The town has been in the process for about six months of working with Providence VFD to figure out the most appropriate way to help them finance the renovations of their building, according to Mayor Pro Tem Daniel Barry, who, along with other council members, did not want to give the money to the department without gaining an asset for the town and the taxpayers.

The current proposed agreement, which will be discussed at the town council meeting at 7 p.m. at town hall, includes the town buying the building and land from the fire department so the department can fund the renovations.  When work is completed, the town will own the building and land, but the department will still operate out of the facility.

In addition to the acquisition, the town also is entering into a long-term agreement for service with the fire department – unlike the current arrangement where the contract is renewed annually.  However, the town and department can still terminate the agreement within the 10-year period if needed.

“One of the questions the fire department came back to us with is, if (the department) is going to sell (the town) the building for less than market value, then (Providence VFD) needs a long-term contract,” Barry said.

The two parts of the agreement will have separate public hearings and a separate vote from the council.

Weddington has already given almost $200,000 needed by the department for the renovations of the back building so operations could be moved there during construction on the front building of the property.  Anyone visiting the station while construction is taking place is asked to come to the back building on the property.  Voting will still take place at Providence VFD in November, but also will be moved into the back building.

The money already given to the department will go toward the nearly $1 million for the acquisition of the property.  After renovations, appraisal estimates show the building and property being worth $1.5 million.

“We are going to spend $1 million and end up with an asset that costs $1.5 million based on the appraisals that I have seen.  In my opinion that’s a pretty good deal,” Barry said.

During the public hearings, residents and community members will have a chance to ask questions and raise potential concerns about the proposed agreements, with three minutes per resident.  Following each public hearing, the council will vote on whether or not to accept or reject the service agreement and acquisition of the fire department’s property in return for funds for renovations.

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