UPDATE: County Manager on proposal to 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.

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All of this is all about "power struggle". Its very simple, "they" (Donny Hall) has a "master plan", based on a consulting firm that just so happens to be run by "Donny Hall's previous boss". There is something just not right about that. Well where is this "plan"? Many have asked for a copy or something in writing and they cant provide one which means there is NO plan! They do not care about the community or what the people want, its all about the power! The fire commision was not even given a "plan" as if they dont even exist. Sounds like Donny Hall, Bruce Shell and Jason Thompson have already decided whats going to happen. As for saving the community money, is that going to be like the Cape Fear Utilty merger, we all know that was a total failure and cost citizens a ton of money. Keep in mind also that the south end of the county will have 3 firefighters, with NO volunteers so if your home or business catches fire,you might as well just sit back and watch it burn because the County will not have the equipment or the manpower to help you! Very sad but true, Its going to take community involvement to help, the meeting is going to be May 17, 2010 at 9:00am at the EOC building. If you want to help your communites please come out for support.

If you're going to be pissed at someone... learn how to spell their name. There's no one named "Donny" on staff. "Keep in mind also" the south end of the county is staffed by more than just 3 firemen and that they also receive mutual aid from the city. Educate yourself before you start posting.

OK, so his name is Donnie and where is the nearest City dept to the southern end of the county? (Not close by any means) No lying going on here just straight up facts, you can like or not! Nothing stronger than cold hard facts! Do your research and you will see!Donnie is just making it easier to allow the City to come in and take over and then he will be looking for a job! Hahaha Karma is an amazing thing!

How's this for cold hard facts? City station 6, 7, and 15 come to mind. There are three city stations in close proximity to the Northern boundary of the area that you are referring to. What's that you say? They are not close enough? Five miles is too far? Well your own district is based off of five miles of travel from your station. I guess it also does not matter that Federal Point can cover almost to Sanders Rd with a five mile travel distance. As for back up, I am sure that Carolina Beach would be more than happy to assist. Since the county already owns the Federal Point fire station I am sure you can see that the only fire station on the Southern end of the county that is in jeopardy is Myrtle Grove. Unfortunately, they were already in jeopardy due to annexation. Maybe the members of Myrtle Grove who would like to continue volunteering will see the light and join the county as a volunteer. At least that way they can continue to do what they love to do, that is of course if they are truly in it for the right reason.

Thanks for the "cold hard facts!"

I've done my research and I recommend you do the same.

Your "Fact" - South side of the county is only staffed by 3 firemen.
Truth - South side of the county is staffed by a minimum of 6 firemen 24/7

Your "Fact" - City will take over
Truth - County becomes the lead agency in any city-county consolidation according to North Carolina G.S. and is explained in greater detail in the book "County and Municipal Government in North Carolina" by David M. Lawrence (specifically Article 10)

So where were the "cold hard facts" in your statement? Sounds like you're "blowin smoke".

Wouldnt you like to know...... I dont think you live in this area or know how the political idiots around here run things, but the one thing I do know is the City CAN and WILL takeover in the very near future, sorry if you are one to believe everything you "read! The North Carolina G.S must be outdated. The staff in the sounthern end is staffed by 6 firefighters in differnt districts, and response time can either save you or kill you. When you or a loved one is waiting for a responder and you have to wait 10 minutes instead of 5 and your life depends on it, let everyone know then how you feel.

So the General Statutes are wrong and you're right? My bad. So where did you get your law degree? You CAN believe what you read... especially when they're the laws we're governed by. And especially when you can look them up in the current G.S.'s online.... I've educated myself and I recommend you do the same.

CAROLINA BEACH FD, WFD STATIONS #6,7,15 CAN BE ON SCENE WITHIN 6 MIN.
THANK YOU

So if the county takes over the volunteer departments, where are they going to get equipment? Most of those firetrucks you see parked in those buildings, and the millions (no exaggeration there) of dollars in equipment on them, are owned by the volunteer department. These departments are usually non-profit corporations. If the departments cease to exist, so does the equipment. The volunteer department cannot exist with the county plan as I understand it.

The article mentions that the volunteers may stop volunteering. This will happen to a limited extent. Most of those guys love it. They just love it. The smell of the turnout gear, the sound of the pager tone, they just love it.

But, is the county going to pay their retirement? Yes, they can subscribe to retirement plans. How about the insurance? Will they pay for training beyond the state mandated minimums? A lot of these activities are partially handled with monies from BBQ sales and chicken fries. All that will stop with a County Department system.

It's just more complicated and a bigger deal than someone can cover here.

Everyone needs to listen to these volunteer chiefs. They didn't just fall off the firetruck yesterday. They were elected to their positions by their peers because they know some stuff.

To guest oldDude sense 1997 all major equipment that has been brought by the county

Wrightsboro VFD owns all of their equipment except ONE truck- that is the only thing that the County owns. Wrightsboro owns the land, the building and the equipment except for that one truck.

Donnie Hall wants to rule the world. He is very unlike among the fire dept. this isn't spoken because they will loose their jobs. He will see to that. I don't think they should taken any help away from the community. they get on TV and in these meetings and say that it wouldn't but, the fact is it will. What they aren't telling you is that most will loose their jobs, they don't pay them now. Most fire fighters have to find second jobs to help. I think you need to come to the meeting with the facts. Not the good old boys saying "everything will be better." Show us facts that this plan has work?

Well gee whiz now! The voters of New Hanover County were just educated on the value of the words of a politician when the sales tax increase was passed, in defiance of common sense. We've heard the weasel words that there never was a "promise" to not pass a property tax increase...

Now, a politician wants to "educate" us on how we'd all benefit if we consent to their gerrymandering our volunteer firefighters!!! Go figure.

Let's try this logic on for size. If the citizens and residents of the Myrtle Grove community want to support their volunteer FD, leave them alone. That department is Myrtle Grove's resource, bought and paid for. Any re-allocation is simply a "taking". A politician exercising control over something for which he hasn't paid.

If we want to collectively save money, lets start with the elimination of the position of "County Manager"... what are the academic and business credentials for this position anyway? A degree in Public Administration? What's that, a Master's level of education in "governmentspeak"... an educated expert in preserving and expanding the role of government in our daily lives, that's what it is.

While we're at it, lets eliminate the City Manager too.

Decisions should be made by OUR elected officials, not delegated to these "professionals".

Let's make government what it should be, accountable to the people who elect it to be of service. Enough of our needing to become "educated" in what fundamentally benefits the bureaucrats and perpetuates cash flow into the pockets of the politicians!

I'm still trying to get someone to show me where it was promised - or who promised - that our property taxes wouldn't go up if the sales tax was passed. Someone please show me a quote or a video of an elected official saying that so I can make sure I know who lied, but I really don't remember any of them saying that. All I remember is that they said Airlie Gardens & the museums would be safe.

Actually New Hanover will probably pull the same crap some jurisdictions up in VA have done. The Equiptment belongs to the volunteers mostly but the county staffs it. This is the same thing that all but killed volunterism in the immediate Northern Virginia area (with the exception of Prince William which has managed somehow to keep a vibrant volunteer system on nights and weekends). This is no different then the power grab that destroyed volunteer EMS in this county when NHRMC all but bullied out the volunteers in Ogden and others (come to find out Ogden-New Hanover Rescue still runs but very limited). Its nothing more then the consistant idiotic standard that because I get a paycheck Im more qualified then the guy/gal who doesnt which is Horsecrap. There is no box that says Volunteer vs Career checkbox on certs anymore then there is the same box when it comes to EMS providers either your qualified or your not and it sickens me that perfectly qualified people who believe in public service and giving back to the community are once again likely to get a halligan bar in the back when they arent looking (little fire fighter inside commentary). But then again what does it matter at the rate Mayor Saffo and the Wilmington City Council is going. Wilmington/New Hanover will be like Duval County/Jacksonville Florida when all is said and done the only thing that will ever stop them is either people fighting back against forced annexation or the Cape Fear River border with Brunswick County and the border of Pender to the North.

DJ,

I agree with everything you say in your post except for the title. I'd be more likely to use the title "Clubbing Volunteerism to Death".

What?

You may want to check your facts. The county owns the equipment it "needs" and three of the eight fire stations. It leases two of the remaining five fire stations from the Ogden Volunteer Firefighter's Association. That means that there are three VFD owned stations left.

It has already been stated that the county is committed to continuing the service with the help of volunteers. The issue is the volunteer corporations. That is the ONLY thing that is being discussed about doing away with. The offer has been made to ALL of the volunteers that they can come and join the county fire department. As a matter of fact, the county already has over 30 volunteers on their roster.

And get this, to make things even better, now a county fire volunteer can pull duty and run calls with the four stations run by New Hanover County Fire Rescue.

I keep hearing "volunteers can still volunteer with the county", I try to be a logical person when it comes to these type of issues. But this is beginning to sound more and more like "Join me and do it my way or not at all!" Is that what community service is all about?

Since you are a logical person, let me make a couple of statements.

1. The county requires a committment of 48 hours per quarter for volunteers.

2. VFDs typically "meet" each week for three hours. That's 12 hours per month, 36 hours per quarter.

3. Conclusion, as a volunteer, the county would ask you to commit to 12 additional hours per quarter which could be gained through a variety of sources, such as actual duty hours at the station, training, and/or emergency responses. I am sure as a dedicated volunteer you provide at least another 12 hours just in emergency response alone, correct?

4. You are already supposed to be getting your yearly NFPA physical and passing a job performance physical abilities test per your VFD contract.

5. You are already required to be a certified firefighter before you make an interior attack on a structure fire, unless of course you were grandfathered in. Which case you have a little more time. Again, this is in the VFD contract.

6. You will get the same state certified training by the same teachers as people like Lauren have point out, The difference is that because you will be on the county's roster, they can provide the training when only two or three of you volunteers need it, unlike the requirements of CFCC, which requires a minimum of 10 students to hold the class.

*NOTE: I would like to point out that the county has tried to reach out the the VFDs to provide the same training opportunities afforded the career staff. They offered to the VFD members the option of dual membership. This would have allowed those who wanted more certification training to take advantage of the county training program. Not very many VFD members actually took the county up on this offer.

7. As a volunteer with county fire, you will haver the choice to serve more than one station and be exposed to different equipment and emergency responses

I hope this helps. Please feel free to fill out an application on the county fire website, but you will have to "do it my way." I am just not so sure why that is a bad thing, unless of course you are one of the VFD members keeping your department from meeting it's contractual obligations.