Doyle Carpunky, president of the Vance County Fire and Rescue Association and chief of the Vance County Rescue Squad and Vance County Board of Commissioner Dan Brummitt were on Monday’s edition of WIZS’ Town Talk program to discuss the County’s recent fire redistricting proposal.
The proposal, which will go before the Vance County Board of Commissioners at this evening’s meeting, includes, in part:
- Converting the Vance County Fire Department into a volunteer department with some paid personnel and designating the Golden Belt district it serves as a volunteer district.
- Repositioning current paid personnel into volunteer departments throughout the county.
- Converting savings from the operational expense of the Vance County Fire Department in order to provide daytime personnel at every fire department.
- Creating a Vance County Fire Services Division under the fire marshal’s office for oversight of paid personnel.
- Changing the current fire response structure from 3-alarm to 4-alarm, increasing the number of departments and personnel on the scene.
According to the proposal put forth by the County’s Fire Commission consisting of Carpunky, Carolyn Faines and Daren Small, this restructuring aims to improve response time, improve cost-effectiveness and establish a consistent level of service to all citizens of Vance County with an opportunity to integrate current paid staff into the volunteer departments.
“This isn’t a locally invented process,” explained Brummitt. “The fire commission conducted a fire study that was completed in 2008. That study set forward a lot of the process to bring our fire services up to a higher standard.”
This newest fire redistricting proposal is the next phase in a larger plan that began approximately four years ago when paid part-time workers were placed in volunteer fire departments including Bearpond, Townsville and Hicksboro, according to Brummitt.
In response to local concern regarding the validity of data that was compiled in a study conducted 10 years ago, Carpunky said the census numbers have not changed. “From the 2008 study to today, the census has not changed on the amount of personnel in our county or the population of our county.”
Carpunky addressed a number of concerns and questions regarding the redistricting proposal with figures he said he received from the County. The majority of the information focuses on the Golden Belt Fire District and the concern with making Vance County Fire Department into a volunteer district. According to Carpunky’s stated figures:
- The Golden Belt Fire District is the largest single district in Vance County with a total population of 8,042. The total population for the rest of the fire districts throughout the county is 22,033.
- The Golden Belt Fire District accounts for 29% of the property value of the county; 71% of the property value is from the current volunteer district.
- The Golden Belt’s primary district is 138.86 road miles of fire district; current volunteer fire districts cover 476.53 road miles.
- The Golden Belt district responds to an average of 1,100 – 1,200 calls per year; volunteer districts respond to approximately 21,000 calls. Carpunky clarified that a percentage of these calls involve motor vehicle collisions or first responder calls, and are not fire-related.
“I understand the Golden Belt’s the largest district, has the highest population in a single district and has the highest percentage of property value in a single district,” said Carpunky. “What about the other districts of our county? That’s what this fire restructure is concentrated on – every citizen as a whole, not one fire department or one fire district.”
According to Carpunky, the Golden Belt Fire District would remain unchanged for now with the exception that it would become a combination paid/volunteer department “like the rest of the volunteer departments in the county.”
Brummitt stated that the County does anticipate changing fire districts in the future, which could affect the Golden Belt. “We do anticipate changing the fire districts, so this mega-district [Golden Belt] that was created because it was a paid department will decrease in size, decrease in property value and will experience a decrease in number of citizens served.”
With all of these changes, Carpunky said one of the concerns he’s heard from citizens is in regards to insurance increases. “For those concerned that changes will increase their insurance rates, an insurance change would not happen with the proposed restructure. If they [Vance County Fire Department] were to go to a combination department today, their current rating would stay the same.”
Another concern mentioned in the interview was the job of current Vance County Fire Chief Chris Wright. The current proposal calls for each volunteer fire department to have their own chief for their district and calls for the creation of an assistant fire marshal position.
When asked about talk that Wright would be slated for the assistant fire marshal position if the proposal was approved, Brummitt responded, “No, that’s a rumor that was created somewhere along the way. At no point did we propose staffing positions. We [fire commission] presented to have a fire marshal and an assistant fire marshal. The Vance County Board of Commissioners doesn’t handle personnel assignments. It will be up to the County Manager [Jordan McMillen] to evaluate what individuals he wants in specific positions.”
Brummitt stated that even if the Board approves the proposal at tonight’s meeting, it would still be some time before all phases are active. “If the Board says ‘we’re going forward with it,’ that doesn’t mean tomorrow morning we start moving fire trucks. We’ve got a process we’re developing so that certain elements would be staged so that once we’ve accomplished level one, we’d move on to level two.”
The proposal may be one step closer to implementation after tonight’s Vance County Board of Commissioners’ meeting, although some in the community, including Commissioner Tommy Hester, have expressed their opinion that the County should invest in an updated fire study before approving the proposal.
The meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. with a public hearing on the fire redistricting proposal to begin at 6:15 p.m. will be held in the Commissioners’ Meeting Room, 122 Young Street in Henderson. The public is highly encouraged to speak; advanced sign up is not required for this particular hearing.
To hear the interview in its entirety, please click here.
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