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Vance Co. Water, Public Safety Committees to Meet Feb. 25

-Information courtesy Kelly H. Grissom, Executive Assistant/Clerk to Board, Vance County Board of Commissioners

Please be informed of the following committee meetings. These will be held in the Administrative Conference Room, Vance County Administration Building, 122 Young Street, Henderson, NC.

Water Committee (Wilder, Brummitt, Taylor)

Monday, February 25, 2019 – 3 p.m.

– LKC engineering contract for Phase 1B

Public Safety Committee (Wilder, Brummitt, Faines)

Monday, February 25, 2019 – 3:30 p.m. or immediately following the water committee meeting.

– 911 Addressing

– VFD Contracts

Vance Co. Commissioners Brummitt & Wilder Talk Fire Restructuring Vote

On Thursday’s edition of WIZS Town Talk program, Vance County Commissioners Gordon Wilder and Dan Brummitt discussed the Board’s recent 4-3 vote to move ahead with funding paid part-time positions in the County’s volunteer fire departments.

Commissioners Tommy Hester, Leo Kelly, Archie Taylor and Wilder were in favor of the vote, with Dan Brummitt, Carolyn Faines and Yolanda Feimster in opposition.

The question of what changes will be made to the Vance County Fire Department that serves the Golden Belt District is still under discussion. Wilder said nothing is off the table when it comes to reorganization options.

“I’m listening to [County Manager] Jordan McMillen and Finance Manager David Beck for some recommendations. I want us to look at every possibility. It may require some shifting around of funds and some creative measures.”

The original fire restructuring proposal, which went before the Board at their January meeting, included, in part, converting the Vance County Fire Department into a volunteer operation with some paid personnel while repositioning other paid personnel into volunteer departments throughout the county.

The Board voted at that meeting to hold a work session on January 23 to further discuss details and options before proceeding.

Wilder said his vote at Monday’s Board meeting in favor of adding paid part-time positions to volunteer departments while leaving the Vance Co. Fire Department as is for the time being was influenced by his conversations with people in the community and his understanding of the general consensus of the commissioners at the recent work session.

“There seemed to be in our work session a consensus that we need to put part-timers in the volunteer departments. I’m not saying in the future that we don’t reduce the paid staff in the Golden Belt and distribute them out [to volunteer departments], but budget-wise, I don’t think it’s wise right now.”

Brummitt, who has been working on fire restructuring measures since 2006, serves on the County’s Fire Commission and has been a strong proponent of the plan as proposed at the January Board meeting.

According to Brummitt, moving forward with funding new part-time positions in the volunteer departments is not what he considers to be the most fiscally responsible decision nor the one that will bring more equality between the various fire districts.

“Based on the motion made at the meeting, the Vance County Fire Department – the Golden Belt District – will be the only area with 24-7 coverage. The others will have part-time coverage Monday through Friday on an 11-12 hour basis. There’s no equity in any of that,” said Brummitt.

Citing previous conversations centering around improving response time and providing equal coverage to the various fire districts, Brummitt said he feels Monday’s decision was a step back. “I feel the decision made the other night was a step backwards to where we had already gotten. I think we’ve come too far to go backwards now.”

Wilder said he felt the decision to increase staffing at volunteer departments was helping to reach that initial goal.

“One of the goals at the outset of all this was the fact that you may live in Watkins, Townsville or Drewry, and being an outlying fire district, you may not be getting the same response time as someone a little closer. So the goal was to give equal response times, or the best we could, as efficiently as possible.”

Moving forward, Wilder said the Board’s work will turn to the process of putting part-time positions in the volunteer departments, filling those positions and resuming talks of a possible restructuring of the Vance County Fire Department.

To hear the WIZS Town Talk interviews with Wilder and Brummitt in their entirety, please click here.

McMillen: Vance Co. Board Begins 2019-2020 Budget Preparations

County Manager Jordan McMillen was on Monday’s edition of WIZS’ Town Talk program to discuss the Vance County Board of Commissioners’ recent two-day planning retreat, held for 2019-2020 fiscal year budget preparation purposes.

According to McMillen, day one of the retreat included presentations by various county department heads, a change from previous years that led to greater clarity on the challenges and needs of each area.

“At this point in the budget process, which is really just beginning, we have a good handle on the needs for the upcoming year, primarily because of that first day of the retreat,” said McMillen.

Many of those needs center around one of the largest budget costs – public safety. With a new sheriff at the helm, McMillen expects one of the requests put forth to the Board this year to include the addition of several staff positions with the Vance County Sheriff’s Office.

Additional big-budget items, such as possible EMS schedule changes and on-going fire restructuring talk also weighed heavy on the discussion.

Part of the EMS restructuring includes talk of transitioning EMS personnel to a 24/72 schedule where a responder works a 24-hour shift, followed by three days off, in a rotation that would see all shifts covered.

Transitioning to this schedule would require the addition of nine new EMS positions at a cost of approximately half-a-million dollars, bringing McMillen back to the “challenges” part of the equation – money.

“Our main sources of revenue – sales and property tax – have minor growth each year,” McMillen said. “We may have $300,000 – $500,000 additional each year, which sounds like a lot, but when you start to look at some of the cost items and expenditures, they take that amount up pretty quickly.”

When questioned on the reported $650,000 in additional revenue available from the roll-off courthouse and jail renovation expenses, McMillen said the money will more than likely be put back into capital expenditures.

“The County does have an aggressive capital improvement plan that has funded projects such as roof replacements and met various needs neglected during the recession years,” said McMillen. “I don’t know that it’s going to help us on the operational side of the budget; we may be able to use some of it.”

At the retreat, McMillen said he cautioned commissioners on the potential perils of juggling so many major projects at the same time.

“I recall, a few years ago, we would focus on one large project at a time. Now we are really stretching and getting into a lot of projects at one time. I think the message for the upcoming budget year is that we need to be careful with that.”

To help narrow their focus, the Board established six goals for the 2019-2020 fiscal year:

  • Move the Vance County Department of Social Services to the former Eaton Johnson Middle School building
  • Provide funding and support to improve fire response county-wide
  • Support existing businesses and market available buildings
  • Improve broadband internet access throughout the county
  • Address littering/trash issues and increase clean-up efforts
  • Address public health issues, particularly substance use and mental health disorders

The first of these goals, moving DSS into the former Eaton Johnson Middle School building located at 500 N. Beckford Drive, is a priority for the Board.

Currently owned by Vance County Schools, McMillen said the Board “hopes to move forward, expeditiously, with acquiring, designing and renovating the former school to include the movement of DSS, and possibly the Senior Center and other departments as space would allow.”

These goals will go before the Vance County Board of Commissioners for approval at their monthly meeting this evening.

To hear the interview with Jordan McMillen in its entirety, please click here.

Vance County Board of Commissioners to Meet Mon., Feb. 4

-Information courtesy Kelly H. Grissom, Clerk to Board/Executive Asst., County of Vance

The Vance County Board of Commissioners will meet Monday, February 4, 2019, at 6 p.m. in the Commissioners’ Meeting Room, 122 Young Street, Henderson. The Invocation will be given by Rev. Julia Alliger, Cokesbury United Methodist Church.

Agenda items:

Public Hearings 

– FY 2019-2020 Budget

– Building Reuse Grant, Southeastern Speciality Vehicles

Appointments 

– Stuart Hill, Thompson, Price, Scott, Adams & Co. – FY 2017-2018 Audit Report

– Lisa Harrison, Public Health Director and Bailey Alston, Five County Coalition – Jail Diversion/Peer Bridging Program

– Amanda Welsh and Brian Boyd – Henderson Oxford Airport Activities Update

Water District Board 

-Monthly Operations Report

Committee Reports and Recommendations 

– Technology Committee – Broadband

Finance Director’s Report 

– Resolution to donate property

County Attorney’s Report 

REO Properties

– Lots 270, 271, 272 Eastside Drive; Parcel 0077 03003

– Lot 6 Roberts Avenue; Parcel 0452 03024

– Lot 133 West Hills Drive; Parcel 0411A03003

– 175 Freedom Lane; Parcel 0541D01033 – New Offer

County Manager’s Report 

– Resolution – Black History Month

– Agricultural Land Lease Agreement (Grissom)

– Resolution – Juvenile Crime Prevention Council (JCPC) Allocation Expansion

– Resolution Opposing Addition of Vance County to Tar Pamlico Stormwater Requirements

– Goals for FY 2019-20

– Fire Reorganization

Consent Agenda Items 

– Budget Amendments and Transfers

– Tax Refunds and Releases

– Ambulance Charge-Offs

– Monthly Reports

– Minutes

Miscellaneous 

– Appointments

– March Meeting Date

Click here to view current and prior Board agendas.

Reminder: Vance Co. Board to Hold Work Session on Fire Restructuring – Jan. 23

Information courtesy Kelly H. Grissom, Executive Assistant/Clerk to Board, County of Vance

The Vance County Board of Commissioners will hold a work session on Wednesday, January 23, 2019, at 1 p.m. in the commissioners’ conference room.  The purpose of the meeting is to discuss fire restructuring.

The work session is open to the public; however, public comments will not be taken.

Lunch will be provided to the Board members at 12:30 p.m.

Vance Co. Technology Committee to Discuss Broadband at Jan. 28 Meeting

-Information courtesy Kelly H. Grissom, Executive Assistant/Clerk to Board, Vance County Board of Commissioners

Vance County’s Technology Committee (Brummitt, Feimster, Taylor) is scheduled to meet Monday, January 28, 2019, at 4 p.m. in the Administrative Conference Room of the Vance County Administration Building located at 122 Young Street in Henderson.

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss broadband.

Vance Co. Commissioners to Hold Work Session on Fire Restructuring – Jan. 23

-Information courtesy Kelly H. Grissom, Executive Assistant/Clerk to Board, County of Vance

The Vance County Board of Commissioners will hold a work session on Wednesday, January 23, 2019, at 1 p.m. in the commissioners’ conference room.  The purpose of the meeting is to discuss fire restructuring.

The work session is open to the public; however, public comments will not be taken.

Lunch will be provided to the Board members at 12:30 p.m.

Vance County Fire Dept. to Operate As Is Pending Further Board Discussion

After much discussion at Monday night’s Vance County Board of Commissioners’ meeting, the general consensus was that even more discussion is needed before moving ahead with fire redistricting plans.

The Board voted to table a decision on redistricting plans pending a work session for further discussion that would be open to the public. A date and time for the session will be announced once confirmed.

The proposed plan, as presented by the Fire Commission, included, in part, converting the Vance County Fire Department into a volunteer department with some paid personnel and designating the Golden Belt Fire District it serves as a volunteer district.

Much of the discussion from the dozen or so people who spoke during the public hearing portion of the meeting focused on the plans for the Vance County Fire Department.

Hartwell Wright and John Bunch, the first two public speakers, expressed opposition to the plan as proposed. Wright questioned the necessity of changes needed to a department that he believes is working as is and Bunch, while conceding that there are good points to the plan, urged for further consideration and study.

Concerned citizens Phyllis Stainback, Tim Jenks and Bill Edwards also spoke against the plan.

John Watkins and Bryan Yount spoke next in support of the redistricting as proposed and said what mattered to them was the reduced response time offered by the plan. Yount further elaborated that the proposal was fair and would spread ISO – insurance ratings – more equally throughout the county. The details of how ISO ratings would be affected if proposed changes were made is unclear at this point.

Deborah Brown, former commissioner and school board member, spoke in favor of the proposal and stated that the plan could be implemented in phases to allow for an adjustment period.

The Vance County Fire Department was represented by Mark Pitzing, Brian Williams and Chief Chris Wright who spoke against the proposal stating that the change to a volunteer department would be a step backward and would negatively affect the current guaranteed response time.

A concern with the national trend of decreased volunteerism in a time when call volumes are increasing was also expressed.

Wright, fire chief of Vance County since 2015, told the commissioners that the Golden Belt Fire District requires a 24-hour service and should not be compared with volunteer districts.

Wright stated that the Golden Belt’s service area includes 123 businesses and the larger of the Vance County schools, including Vance County Middle School and Vance County High School, making the district unique in their needs.

County Manager Jordan McMillen agreed that the current proposal works from a financial standpoint but does not address a number of details and concerns.

Chief among the concerns, according to McMillen, is the need for 24/7 coverage in the Golden Belt; the instability of a system that could fail to function if all positions are not filled at all times; the fact that the Vance County Fire Department acts as a backstop for all other departments; and the uncertainty of what happens to the fire chief position under the proposed plan.

McMillen said the most current fire study, completed in 2008, called for increased funding and part-time help, measures that have already been put in place to some extent. However, McMillen said moving forward with more cost-saving measures in the future may be accomplished in ways other than splitting up the Vance County Fire Department.

In concern of the age of the previous fire study, Commissioner Tommy Hester proposed that an updated, independent study be conducted. Commissioner Leo Kelly seconded the motion. With a vote of 4 against and 3 in favor, the proposal did not pass.

The next step for the Board will be to discuss the fire redistricting plan in an upcoming work session open to the public for observation but not for commenting.

Board Chair Archie Taylor declared that the Vance County Fire Department and Golden Belt Fire District will operate as is pending the outcome of the work session.

Open Burn Ordinance Unanimously Adopted by Vance Co. Commissioners

The Vance County Board of Commissioners unanimously adopted an open burn ordinance as presented by County Fire Marshal Keith Duncan at their Monday night meeting.

The purpose of this ordinance is to promote the health, safety, and general welfare of the citizens of the County by regulating the air pollution and fire hazards associated with open and outdoor burnings.

This ordinance applies to all outdoor burning and open burning within the County, except as otherwise specifically provided. This ordinance does not apply to the following:

  • Outdoor grilling or cooking food using charcoal, clean wood, propane or natural gas in cooking or grilling appliances;
  • Burning for the purpose of generating heat in a stove, furnace, fireplace or other heating devices within a building used for human or animal habitation;
  • The use of propane, acetylene, natural gas, gasoline, or kerosene in a device intended for heating construction or maintenance activities;
  • Burning pursuant to or in accordance with a validly issued burning permit from a federal or state department or entity.

According to the ordinance, open burning of grass clippings, leaves, logs, brush, and stumps is allowed in the county in accordance with all of the following provisions so long as materials originate from the lot in which they are burned:

  • Bonfires require a written permit to be issued by the Fire Marshal in accordance with the NC Fire Code and must be obtained prior to open burning under this section.
  • Campfires shall not be conducted within 25 feet of a structure or combustible material.
  • Conditions which could cause a fire to spread within 25 feet of a structure shall be eliminated prior to ignition.
  • The location for allowed open burning shall not be less than 50 feet from any structure, and provisions shall be made to prevent the fire from spreading to within 50 feet of any structure.

Exceptions to this include the following:

  1. Fires in approved containers shall not be less than 15 feet from a structure.
  2. Fires with a pile size of 3 feet or less in diameter and 2 feet or less in height shall not be less than 25 feet from a structure.
  • Safety – All allowed open burnings shall be conducted in a safe, nuisance-free manner when wind and weather conditions minimize adverse effects and do not create a health hazard or visibility hazard on roadways, railroads, or airfields. Open burning shall be conducted in accordance with all local and state fire protection regulations.
  • Supervision – All allowed open burnings shall be constantly attended and supervised by at least one (1) competent person of at least eighteen (18) years of age until the fire is extinguished. The competent person shall have readily available for use such fire extinguishing materials or equipment as may be necessary for the total control and extinguishing of the fire.
  • Burn Ban – Except for barbecue, gas, and charcoal grills, no open burning shall be undertaken when the State has issued a burning ban for Vance County.

A person utilizing or maintaining an outdoor fire will be responsible for all fire suppression costs and any other liability from damage caused by the fire.

The Fire Marshal or his designee, or the Sheriff or his designee, are authorized to enforce this ordinance, inspect any property for the purpose of ascertaining compliance with the provisions of this ordinance and order fires in violation of this ordinance to be extinguished.

Any person violating any of the provisions of this ordinance may be fined by a penalty or combination of penalties according to the severity of the offense.

The first violation shall result in a warning citation for a probation period of one year. The violator will be educated on the ordinance and given proper education materials for reference.

The second violation within a consecutive 12-month period shall result in a fine of $50.

The third violation, or any violation subsequent to the third violation, within a consecutive 12-month period, shall result in a mandatory fine of $500.

Brummitt and Carpunky Tackle Fire Redistricting Questions

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