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UPDATE: County Manager on proposal to take over volunteer fire departments

READ MORE: County could take over volunteer fire departments
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(New Hanover County)— New Hanover County Manager Bruce Shell has released the following statement concerning delivery of fire services in the unincorporated area of New Hanover County.

“There is much speculation that the New Hanover County Commission will take a vote on Monday, May 17 on my recommendation that modifies the command structure between volunteer fire departments and New Hanover County Fire Services. That is simply not true. However, I will, as part of my budget recommendation, outline my vision for fire service going forward. I am choosing to present my vision/recommendation in the context of the budget proposal because the budget is the vehicle to bring this vision to reality.

“My fire service recommendation comes after much analysis by county staff, review of a master plan received by the Board of Commissioners, and meetings with volunteer fire department members. The Board of Commissioners directed in February that I bring a recommendation forward for its consideration.

“I did share my intended recommendation with the volunteer fire chiefs and the New Hanover County Fire Commission Monday, May 10, 2010. As one might expect, the recommendation was received with high emotion and many questions. The fire commission has requested and the Board of Commissioners has agreed to meet together to discuss my recommendation in detail. Any final decision on fire service for New Hanover County is neither expected nor appropriate until such a joint meeting takes place. When that meeting date is established the county will issue full and complete notice to all.”

The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners meeting will be held Monday, May 17 at 9:00 am and will be broadcast live on NHCTV and streamed live on www.nhcgov.com.

INFORMATION FROM A NEWS RELEASE SENT TO THE WWAY NEWSCHANNEL 3 NEWSROOM...

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New Hanover County, NC (WWAY)- New Hanover County has eight fire departments. Four are run by the county. Four are run by volunteer organizations. Now the county will consider taking control of all eight departments.

The New Hanover County emergency operations center was packed with volunteer and paid firefighters Monday night. Many of the volunteers are worried they'd be moved from their current stations and won't be able to serve their communities if the county takes control of their fire departments.

"There is a lot of money that comes in from our community that's put back into the fire station and the fire service that is not provided by county tax money," said Myrtle Grover Volunteer Fire Chief David Raines.

But New Hanover County Fire Chief Donnie Hall says consolidating the operations is what's best for the citizens.

"We'll be able to provide a consistent level of service through all areas of the county and able to provide our mission of protecting life and property the best that we can," said Hall.

If the county consolidates the fire department it could mean a better insurance rating for some residents and more training opportunities for volunteer firefighters. An independent company did a survey of the county operations and found that the current system is inefficient. While the fire tax will increase next year, it could cost even more if the county doesn't complete the merger. But residents are worried volunteers won't donate their time if the county's in charge.

"I think that we need the people element. we need smaller government, not bigger government. and that if something works, we should leave it alone," said Wrightsboro resident Carolyn Parker.>

County Manager Bruce Shell says volunteer firefighters could continue to serve their communities and the transition would be a lot smoother with community support.

"There's a segment of the population that does not trust government, we've learned that. that's why we need to educate more on what we do," said Shell.

Shell will make his recommendation to county commissioners next Monday. The commissioners will have the final say on whether or not the county takes over the volunteer fire departments.

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.

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