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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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RE: There are already paid

To lauren, i am glad to see you have done youre research. Response time would improve in the case of Myrtle Grove Fire Dept. for some odd reason MGVFD likes to keep all there trucks in service and available. The current dispatch system we have in place which is called CAD, its computer aided dispatch. The way it works is when the dispatcher starts asking there questions it recommends certain units depending on the location. Now if MGVFD keeps there 4 trucks in service and available, and you get a structure fire in MGVFD's district, CAD will recommend all four MGVFD trucks. Now this is nice but due to falling volunteer participation you may get two trucks, one filled with county staff and then a volunteer truck maybe 4 to 5 minutes after county staff leave the station. Now had those trucks not been in service and if they would have Kept only one truck in service that same structure fire dispatch would have been Station 31 (County staff), Station 91(County Staff), Station 6(City of Wilmington), Station 15(city staff), and Station 7(City Staff), which all have paid staff in them. This means that i have more manpower coming to me. I have been witness to a confirmed structure fire call where the second truck out from a station was manned by "1" person. Please enlighten me on what you are going to do with one person. Let me spin this question to the taxpayers. How would you like it if you and your LT. were in a fire and you were expecting serious manpower and you get one volunteer that drove a truck? OHH and the kicker is he cant even go into the fire. How does that feel. All because that chief likes to keep his trucks in service and available.

First of all let me begin

First of all let me begin with the comment about the bickering. As you stated, the bickering in these stations can happen from either side. The County owning the departments will not change the relationship between individual members and this really seems to be an irrelivant point.
Now for the matter of response time ESPECIALLY in the case of medical calls. As I am sure you know volunteers do not only respond to calls in fire truck but also in personal vehicles. If you are having a medical emergency and live 4.9 miles from the nearest station, would you rather have someone coming from that station or someone who lives around the corner. Your neighbor could perform the life saving measures that make sure you are still breathing when the fire truck arrives. This doesn't even take into account the fact that the few paid firefighters provided by the county to man these stations (with our current system) are not always the first on scene wheather or not they are the first to climb in a fire truck.

Alright so i guess you can

Alright so i guess you can see that most these were wrote by county staff that i am sure forgot were they came from just like their Chief! And everyone keeps talking about saving money if you want to save money did Station 52 really need a TV in every room! And you say that the Volunteers need to give there trucks up to yall. But yet if you listen to the county that's how they will save money cause then they wont have to pay for repairs. And if anyone believes that crap about saving over a 1'000 dollars on your rates cause you would switch to a 5.9 call your insurance and see how much you will save it's not that much! They are including flood wind and hail in with that last i checked we fought Fires!

No such thing

There is no such thing as a 5.9 rating, do your research. This is really something that will benefit the whole community. I have personally seen the waste of money in the volunteer departments and have yet to see more than two volunteers actually on a call in many calls I have been on. Its time to loose the social club that ya'll use it as and let professionals handle it like they have been.

Professionals

Where were the professionals before the County decided to turn it into a cashcow?

"I have personally seen the

"I have personally seen the waste of money in the volunteer deparments"

Let the games begin...
I would really appreciate it if you could cite an example of "wasting money" for me. Thanks, for being a prime candidate for someone who could "do some research."
Also, I really appreciate your attitude, as it validates the arguments of those in your opposition.
so go for it, continue to mud sling and "handle it like you have been," as you are clearly an economic genius. :)

Get it Right

"Donnie Hall wants to rule the world".... Please... you must not understand much about County Fire Services or Politics. Why does this have to be a petty power struggle, look at what is the best for the citizens of New Hanover County. Look at the call records and see how many "volunteers" actually show up for calls. All Donnie Hall,the County Commissioners, and Bruce Shell are trying to accomplish is better customer service for the citizens. Quicker response times, better training..... these things save lives, property and lower insurance rates. So let me ask the question, "do you want a bbq plate? or someone to be readily available to respond when you push those three buttons on the phone 9-1-1? Think about it and don't go making assumptions until you get all the facts.

Well, you apparently

Well, you apparently understand a "whole lot" about politics, so let's talk politics. The entire proposal was 300+ pages, difficult to read and fully comprehend for an average citizen in NHC. The average response time for WVFD is around 5-7 minutes, with volunteers responding from home. State certification for the fire service is the same for Volunteers and County Staff alike. How do you suggest that this proposal (which, by the way, have you read in it's entirety?) will improve training? Politically, in all fairness to the taxpayers of the community, how with this proposal be cost effective? Give me some answers because apparently you've "done your reading."

Really im Pretty sure that

Really im Pretty sure that Wrightsboro Average 6 Volunteers a call how many does county fire? um lets see 4 Paid staff so maybe you should get your facts straight!

Fire Coverage

We all need fire coverage. I have never known some one to say, why are you here. Your shirt says county fire. My local fire department is, what ever that community name maybe. People do not care, when they need a fire truck and the personnel on it, come on. If you pull up in a volunteer (as you call it, owned) truck and people with county fire shirts on, is the citizen of that community going to ask you to leave. No, they are not. Maybe they should be asking where is the people with the t-shirt that says the same as the side of the truck. Combining the services, an everyone training together can only make things better. Why is it, that all I am reading says, the volunteers own the equipment/station. Maybe on a piece of paper they do. But truley, who owns the stuff. If I pay taxes and donate money, I, a tax payer and someone who gives to the volunteer departments own it. We all, as citizens and tax payers of NHC, own all this stuff. Why would we go sale equipment that has been purchased with donation money. Even though the tax base did not pay for it and your community donations did. Then sale the truck, take the money and do what your charter says to do with it. Then your community members can go and pay more taxes to purchase another truck like the one you just sold. Come on, it is time to move with the times. We can not stand still as the world passes us by. Work together and make the fire service the best it can be in the county. This is not about individual stations anymore. It is about doing what is right for the citizens and visitors of New Hanover County.

Non-emotional FACTS

Well, at least now we have heard from the volunteer side of things. How about we now hear from the rational side for things.

Is there a plan? Why yes there is. But obviously "The Plan" depends greatly on whether the volunteer corporations choose to do the right thing and work with the county for fire protection. If one, some, or all of them choose to work with the county, then "The Plan" will be very different than if they all choose not to play.

Training, while the volunteers are afforded the same level of training meeting the same standards, they are not given the same access to the training. Why? Because the county fire department is its own delivery agency and can provide training to groups of two or three people while the Cape Fear Community College requires the group to be at least 10 people.

Cost savings, it was plainly stated that if the system continues with business as usual, the cost will be more and the fire tax will have to be increased more than if the system is consolidated into one system. This is due to each volunteer corporation duplicating efforts in the various areas of fire department administration. While we are on this topic, let’s discuss what happens if a volunteer fire department in this county closes its doors. While many of the departments do conduct fund raisers such as BBQ etc their primary funding mechanism comes from the tax payer's pocket. Since they are "independent contractors" providing a service, they can and have previously sold off equipment that was bought and paid for in whole or in part with taxpayer's money to outside agencies. How is that in the best interest of the taxpayers? New Hanover County got into the fire service business because of a volunteer fire department and issues with taxpayer's money. That was North Wilmington Volunteer Fire Department.

Judgment, although I do not always agree that the government makes the best decisions, let take a look at the volunteer corporations. Wrightsboro VFD for a long time would not allow the county to place the same level of staffing their station that was provided in other stations. Why you ask? Because they felt the public was better served by those who would have to respond from home or wherever they may be to the station to get the required equipment to then respond to your emergency. I for one expect that there be consistency in providing me a service that I as a tax payer pay for through taxes. Why is fair for one district to have full coverage 24/7 while another have limited coverage? Why would the county allow this? The reason is because they have always tried to dance around the volunteer corporations and cater to their tender egos.

Insurance rates, while two stations, Castle Hayne and Wrightsboro have a district wide insurance rate of 6, the remaining six stations have what is called a split rating of 5/9. What this means is that if you are a taxpayer who lives within 1000’ of a fire hydrant you will get a 5 rating while those outside of 1000 feet of a fire hydrant will receive a 9. The scale is from 1 – 10, 1 being the best, 10 being the worst. Dropping from a 9 to a 5 could save a home owner over $1000.00 per year in insurance premiums. I guess it is fair that some taxpayers get a better rate than others since they are all paying the same fire tax rate. So how does all of this fit into the big picture you ask? Well I will be happy to tell you. If the districts are consolidated and fall under the authority of one fire department, the fire district will get the full credit of all of the resources (man power, apparatus, equipment, etc.) when it is re-rated. Previously the individual fire districts, one for each station only got full credit for the equipment and manpower in that station. They received only partial credit for the other stations that assisted them.

Power struggle, while the other posts would have the taxpayers believe that the county is doing this in order to get more power, the real reason is to save taxpayers money in the form of their insurance premiums. The fire department is the only part of government that I know of that actually can put money back in the pockets of the taxpayers. For example, if you own a home with a value of $255,000 and your fire protection class drops from a 9 to a 5, you could save about $1400 per year in insurance premiums. That same home would cost you about $165 per year in fire district taxes. This would create a net savings to you of $1235 per year. Not a bad return on your investment. Now, the volunteer corporations will likely say “they” have already done this for you. Well, it is true that in some cases they assisted, they did not do this until the terrible, power hungry county fire department provided the manpower and drive to do so. Now, back to the power struggle, the volunteer corporations want to protect their little nests. Unfortunately, this comes at a cost to the taxpayer. With each volunteer corporation being interested only in “their” community, they are turning their backs on the remainder of the taxpayers throughout the county who could benefit if the system was incorporate into one organization.

Equipment and stations, although at one time the county did not actually own the apparatus and stations needed to provide the level of fire protection needed in the county, they do own a lot more now. Does this mean they have all of the stations they need? No, they don’t. But they do have a plan in the event that the volunteer corporations are un-willing to allow them to continue to use their stations. How many stations you ask? Three of the eight stations throughout the county are not owned by the county. Anyone ever see how quickly a simple metal building can be built in this county? As for the apparatus and other equipment, the volunteer corporations would have you believe they have it all. Again, this is not the case. The county owns what they need. Many of the volunteer corporations own additional equipment that is not needed to meet the needs of the fire district. This equipment cost money in order to maintain it for the “What if” scenario. If that “What if’ scenario occurs, the county could simply call other departments such as the City of Wilmington or any of the beach towns. There is absolutely no need to have the “He who dies with the most toys, wins” mentality. If the districts were consolidated, much of this extra equipment could be done away with to decrease maintenance and repair costs. Of course the volunteer corporations would sell what they own to anyone other than the county rather than re-invest the money into the fire protection system in the county.

Finally, I would like to point out the fact that I have purposely used the term “volunteer corporation” throughout my discussion of the facts. This is because what we are really talking about here deals with the dissolution of the volunteer corporations, not the volunteers. New Hanover County Fire Services has their own volunteers and will welcome with open arms those volunteers who are it the fire service for the right reasons from the volunteer corporations. The intent is to make the service better to the taxpayers, not to cater to volunteer corporations. There is no intent on closing fire stations in communities. If the volunteer corporations choose to close their doors and not work with the county, you can rest assured you will still have a community based fire protection system. Hopefully, I have provided the rational and non-emotional side of the story. I am sorry that the volunteer firefighters whom are in it for the right reasons are caught between their desire to do the right thing for the community and their respective volunteer corporations.

To all of the taxpayers who support your volunteer fire department corporations while paying for it through the form of the fire tax, I personally thank you. Those volunteer corporations who still sell BBQ and raise funds the old fashioned way thank you. But those volunteer corporations that use third party companies to raise funds for them, such as the picture fund drives are misleading the public. The picture drives are run by third party for-profit companies who hire people to go door to door to solicit donations for the VFD. The people knocking on your door are not part of the VFD. They just take your donation and move on to the next while collecting a pay check. The company takes a portion of the money, some estimates as high as a third, for their own profit and then attempt to sell you picture packages. No big deal you say? Well many of these VFDs bring in over $50,000 per year with the tactic in order to purchase unnecessary items, such as the Humvee that you see driving around in Myrtle Grove. This vehicle is used for their volunteer battalion chief.

NOTE: To the person who posted, “They think we're all idiots.” I would advise you to be careful about making comments about burning down a fire station or any other building. Your post can be traced and you can be held accountable for your threats. I thought you volunteer to fight fire, not urge people to burn buildings down. I am glad not all of the volunteers in this county are like you.

Call your insurance company

Call your insurance company and check to see savings. Oh wait, we've already done all that for you. Savings from going to an ISO of Waterhaul 6 to ISO of waterhaul 5 (as it would in the Wrightsboro and Castle Hayne areas IF the new "plan" brings the ISO to 5) are only $33 to $50. Call an insurance company and ask, please feel free. And for going from an ISO of 9 to an ISO of 5 is $200 to $400. Again, call any insurance company and ask, in fact call several. Where are the thousands of dollars in savings?

How will tax rates not be affected by this? Please, explain. I'm all ears. Volunteer VFDs use only $1 milliion of a $13 million budget for NHC Fire. There are 4 VFDs, and 4 county fire departments. The same number of departments but such a wide variance in the amount of money they use? Now imagaine if the four VFDs are consolidated, how much will the budget have to go up? How will this new budget be paid? Higher taxes maybe?

The Non Emotional Facts are

The Non Emotional Facts are NOT correct. The Myrtle Grove Fire Dept may have a humvee, however New Hanover County pays for several of their, expedtions, trucks, cars and other vehicles to be driven home DAILY and used for personal use while taxpayers pay for the maintenance and fuel for this nonsense, some as far as Brunswick County and a couple of them have no purpose other than delivering mail to stations, so dont knock one station for having one vehicle that the volunteer battalion chief on duty drives, when you have 10-15 County vehilces out driving around to non business events! All of those vehicles except one battalion chief vehicle should be parked every night to "save" money! Check it out, you might be surprised at what you find out that the county spends (wastes) money on!Appreciate your opinion, everyone is entitled to one, however your facts are not correct! Thanks, Have a great day!

Written in Fire

Written in Fire Facts:

"Unfortunately, this comes at a cost to the taxpayer. With each volunteer corporation being interested only in “their” community, they are turning their backs on the remainder of the taxpayers throughout the county who could benefit if the system was incorporate into one organization."

Hey Chief,

Are you really serious in what you say here???
New Hanover County has already experienced the immense benefit of consolidation of "authority"... all we have to do is look at the Cape Fear Public Futilites Authority"...

Oh, one more thing.... don't bother us with the we're working to save the taxpayers' insurance premiums... Mr. County Official, you do your job, save money and lower taxes. I'll shop for my own damned insurance.

They think we're all idiots

We need to be "educated" about what we need. We're not smart enough to know what works.

Oh, but we should still volunteer at the stations? After the county takes them over and raises our taxes? I contributed heavily to the new Ogden sation off Porters Neck Road and I would urge members to burn it to the ground before they let the county seize it.

Keep it up. We're gradually heading toward "no community whatsoever" because of over-reaching bureacrats such as Hall and Shell.

Don't TELL me what I need, you tyrannical ***cks! You work for ME!

You might want to do your homework

Ogden already turn the Porters Neck and the Ogden station over to the county. Thanks for staying involved in your community!!

Not true

The county maintains the day shift. The station is still 100% owned and run by the volunteers. The county can't simply say it's ours now.

Ogden

They haven't turned their stations over to anyone. They have allowed the County to station a daytime crew there as a partnership. Have a fire at night or a second call while the first-out crew is busy and see who shows up.

To Guest oldDude you need

To Guest oldDude you need to do your homework the county has staffed ogden 24 hours sence the late 90s. The station and land is still there's but they signed over all equipment. and as for the calls at night or second calls the paid staff at porters neck will show up. How about stopping buy one day to see how many ogden volunteers are there and let county staff educate you .

Wrong

The county staffs both Ogden and Porters Neck stations 24/7. As for the second call, you'll most likely see another north side unit staffed with yet another county crew.... Like I've said before, EDUCATE yourselves before you start posting.

yes Ogden has already been

yes Ogden has already been taken over by the county, that station is now just glorified "fundraisers" to support the county.

Also for the comment about the little ford ranger with a red light, I would be willing to bet you would appreciate seeing that truck come up to help you or a member of your family in an emergency situation, and volunteers do have training just as much as paid! So get off your high horse and appreciate the people who have kept you safe for many years!

training

I disagree a volunteer only has to have what? 36 hours of training a year when a career fire fighter has to have 240 training hours a year. It would be good if you ever say a volunteer actually on a call.

Training

It's my understanding that a volunteer firefighter has to at least have the same minimum training that is required of a paid firefighter.

Minimum training?! Try the

Minimum training?! Try the exact same training by almost all of the exact same teachers? The only difference between County and VFD firefighters is WHERE they are trained. They each are trained in the same program (by mostly the same people-usually NHC Fire officers) except the County trains at the stations and the volunteers are trained at CFCC- again, same program and usually the same teachers. There is no difference in the training, they all meet state standards.

Smart men

The county is trying to train, We the people do not want a person that doesn't know what and how to save a life. This isn't a small town anymore, you can't just go flying by in your Ford Ranger with your little red light anymore. You have to grow with the county.

You think volunteers aren't trained

Do you have any idea how much training we have to undergo? Obviously not. I'd stack the average certified volunteer against any other fireman, be he county or city of Wilmington.

FireMAN?? HE??

Hello, Old-Timer! Welcome to the 21st Century! In this brave new world, WOMEN are also firefighters! I'm a wife and mother AND a firefighter. I hold a degree in Fire Science. I've been doing this job that I love for more than a decade now.

Thanks for finally letting us out of the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant, and allowing us to don our turnout gear and fight fire alongside the boys. :-)

EXACTLY!!!!!!! They are

EXACTLY!!!!!!! They are total pushovers. Just hope nobody in the southern part of the county has a home or business to catch fire, by the time they pull manpower from the north side of wilmington and the 3 firefighters from their temporary trailer stations, it will have burned to the ground.

The city will love to come

The city will love to come and play with us

So True

The fire dept can sale their equipment and donate the money back into the community. Look at Seagate a few years back. They didn't sale anything or give anything to the city or county. I dont' see why they can't work together for the Communities they serve.