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.
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