The Caswell County Board of Commissioners reconvened in regular session at the Caswell County Historic Courthouse in Yanceyville, North Carolina at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, May 1, 2017. Members present: Kenneth D. Travis, Chairman, David Owen, Vice-Chairman, Sterling Carter, William E. Carter, Nathaniel Hall, Jeremiah Jefferies and Rick McVey. Also present: Bryan Miller, County Manager. Paula P. Seamster, Clerk to the Board, recorded the minutes.
CALL TO ORDER
Chairman Travis stated “I would like to reconvene the May 1, 2017 Commissioners Meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to hold a public hearing on the Fire Service District Tax and when we start speaking on this we would like for everybody to limit it to 3 minutes each so that everybody that wants to speak will have a chance to speak.”
PUBLIC HEARING – FIRE PROTECTION SERVICE DISTRICT
Commissioner W. Carter moved, seconded by Commissioner Owen that the Board enter into a public hearing to receive comments on the proposed Fire Protection Service District. The motion carried unanimously.
Mr. Robert Vernon stated that he lives in the Cherry Grove district and he was been there for 47 years. He wanted to let the commissioners know that he is in favor of a countywide tax. He thinks the departments need it to be able to keep the equipment up and to supply the fireman the equipment that they need.
Mr. Larry Seal stated that he lives on Corbett Ridge Road in the Prospect Hill fire district. He stated that he is a property owner, a tax payer and a resident of Caswell County. He has never been a fireman. He added that the things that are obvious are the things that we take for granted. Most of the fire departments, from what he understands, were formed back in the 50s and 60s and we are living a much different world now than the world was then. The Prospect Hill fire department was founded by mainly tobacco farmers and their own fire protection was the main reason for having it. As the world changes the needs change. He stated that he doubted that in the late 50s that we had ever thought about the word first responders but when you look at Caswell County now and you dial 911 the first people that show up are first responders and they do a wonderful job. He added that when the fire departments were formed funds were raised by fundraisers and donations. On the state and federal level they have been real good at mandating different regulations and more strict to cause the cost of these departments to be much greater. He added that he appreciated the Board of Commissioners for what they do to fund the regulations that are passed down from the federal and state level. He stated that he has never been a county commissioner and he had no desire to be one and the thanked the Board for the job that they do and he added that he is sure it is a thankless job and the Board can’t fund everything that comes along because there is not enough money to go around. He stated that when you look at the fireman and first responders those jobs are not funded by any other overlapping agency, no churches, no civic organizations or anybody else is going to respond to the 911 calls. The same people fund all the fundraisers at the fire departments and very few people are paying the majority of the bill. There are absentee landowners that do not pay anything into the fire departments and state owned land that is handled by the Forestry Service or the Wildlife Services are not helping the county either. He stated that if the new fire tax is put into effect and if this tax is disturbed to the fire departments only and not put into the general budget he is very much in favor of it. He added that he has heard figures passed around with 4 cents on the $100 valuation and 6 cents on the $100 valuation and if you look at the money that the county is talking about on a $250,000 valuation you are looking at $100 at 4 cents and at 6 cents you are looking at $150. He added that he thinks that the people in the room have donated more per year than the $600 that would be on the valuation of a $1,000,000 property at 6 cents. He stated the he thinks that too few people pay too much of the bill and the Commissioners have an opportunity to correct this. He is in favor of the tax and recommending the 6 cents per $100 valuation. He thanked the Board for having the meeting and for letting the public speak.
Mr. Wally Ewalt stated that he is sort of a new resident of the county, he has been here for about 25 years and he is very proud of Caswell County. He added that he know the Commissioners are confronted with tough decisions particular monetary decisions but when you stop and think about the necessity of certain things that make life worth living in Caswell County one of them is if the residents have a problem they can call the fire department, the EMS, the sheriff’s office and they will come and help the residents out of a difficult situation. He is not interested in paying any more taxes than anybody else but paying the extra money the residents will get a fire department that is properly manned and the residents know that there will be someone there if there is an emergency. He added that when he moved here he tried to get homeowners insurance and he received two quotes and after he reviewed the quotes and told the insurance companies that the county had volunteer fire departments manned in the county within 5 miles of his residence both of them reduced the price of his insurance. He added that he is not in favor of raising taxes but he thinks there comes a time when all residents should contribute to make Caswell County a safe environment to raise our families.
Ms. Emily Buchanan stated that she lives at 923 Rascoe Dameron Road. She is the CTE and Secondary Curriculum Director for the Caswell County schools. She stated that she has a contract in her hands between the local fire chiefs and the school districts and what it shows is the partnership that they have built and she wants the people to know that fireman do more than just put out fires. They are working really hard to support the students and support the program that the school system is getting ready to implement as part of the CTE program next. The school system is very proud to be able to offer public safety to the students and also firefighting technology 1, 2 and 3. Right now because of funding they are only offering it part time but the classes are already filled. There are a ton of students that are interested in this and are looking to go into this as a profession. The school system is behind the fire tax and the firemen in the community and the school system has developed a huge partnership with the fire departments. She is here tonight to support the fire departments just like they have been there to support the community.
Ms. Pat Warren stated that she lives in Prospect Hill and she has lived there her whole life and she is a property owner. There have been a lot of facts given so far and wonderful things have been said but she wanted to speak on the emotional part. When her mother died unexpectedly the first responders were there within minutes. When her sister became ill unexpectedly the first responders were there within minutes. When they had 2 fires in Warren’s Store at separate times and one time when smoke was bellowing out from under the store the fire department was there in minutes and she knows the store is still standing because of them. She added that when she is at home and something happens to her the first responders will be there in minutes as well as the fire department. Our fireman and the auxiliaries are on call 24 hours 7 days a week and it is wonderful that they have done this and sustained all of this all of these years but as Larry Seal said things change and it is time to change with the times. Our fireman and our auxiliaries are our local heroes there is no question about that. She stated that she very much appreciates them and added that if they need our financial support she supports them 100%. As a property owner and as a taxpayer she considers this a very small price to pay for such incredible service that the residents receive 24 hours a day 7 days a week. She asked the commissioners for their vote in favor of the Caswell County Fire Protection District.
Mr. George Pickard stated that he lives in Rockingham County but he is an announcer at WYNC. He is here to speak on behalf of his sister in which he is her legal guardian, power of attorney. He stated that he is in favor of the fire tax but he finds that a lot of senior citizens are suffering because they can’t afford their medicine and there is no incentives for senior citizens in Caswell County and he thinks the county needs to look at that as well. His sister lives by herself and the first responders have responded to her house many times and he is proud of that. In Rockingham County he pays both county tax and city tax and he pays a lot. He is in favor of the fire tax but he is also in favor of doing something for the senior citizens.
Mr. Earl Nelson stated that is a 78 year resident of 11802 NC 86 South, Prospect Hill. He commended the Commissioners for realizing the importance of fire service in Caswell County. He has been in fire service since 1963. He can remember when the fire service was a pumper that ran out of the station across the street to anywhere in the county that had a fire and most of the time the chimney was left when they got there. Also sick calls were answered by Roy Hooper and his hearse so Caswell County has come a long ways in fire service in the county. In the early 1970s he was one of the fire chiefs that went before the Board of Commissioners and begged and pleaded for help for the fire service and after much deliberation they installed the vehicle tax, the $15 vehicle tax to be used strictly for fire service. He said he will be the first to say it was not fair because of the absentee landowners that never pay anything for the service they have received over the years. If we are going to keep the service that the county has the fire departments have got to get the help they need financially. He has heard that the 4 cents will put a real burden on fixed income people and he said that was him but those are the individuals that will use this service more than any other group of people. He added that their clumsiness will start fires; their falls and all of these things affect elderly people. He added that since the early 1970s county dollars have not been put into fire service until this last year. The fire departments were a forgotten stepchild. Last year there was some county money given to the fire departments. He said that he is here to support the 4 cents and he also supports keeping that money with the service district of each fire department.
Mr. Earl Jefferies stated that he lives on Highway 57 in Milton. He lives half way between Milton and Semora. He has been a farmer for 20+ years. He volunteers for Semora Volunteer Fire Department. He responds to fires with the firemen and it is important to have good equipment. When he goes into a fire he knows that he has a good truck and pumper to supply him water. They also respond to vehicle accidents and you have to have the right equipment. The first responders have a great responsibility and each year the equipment gets more expensive. He supports the fire department and he knows the importance of the fire equipment. He also helped the Milton Fire Department. He never received pay but when he got home he felt good. He had to call the fire department to help him. The first responders had to work on him and 2 hospitals told his family that if they had not helped him he would not be here today.
Ms. Sherry Stanfield Oakley stated that she lives at 587 Egypt Road in Prospect Hill and she is a property owner. She encouraged the Board of Commissioners to include the proposed 4 cent fire tax in their 2017-2018 budget. The reason for this is because of the increasing cost of equipment and the vision of having one paid fireman per district. The fire departments cannot keep up with the mounting cost of equipment and a paid fireman with the fundraisers. She knows personally because she helps with the fundraisers and they can’t make enough barbeque or serve enough stew or make enough jams sold at $20 a jar by the way to keep up with the costs. The fire departments need to be included in the county budget and everyone benefits from that. She did some research and the neighboring counties have fire taxes in place and they range anywhere from 7 cents to 13½ cents so 4 cents is not that much. She also took the liberty of trying to find some prior budgets for Caswell County and she was only able to find the 2014 budget and in the 2014 budget 39% of the budget went to human services, 13% to education and 27% to public safety. She added that the proposed 4 cent tax would only be about $1 million which would only account for 4% of the county’s budget and she did not think that was a lot to ask. As a resident of Caswell County she asked the Board to please fund the fire departments even if it means raising taxes.
Ms. Linda Faulkner stated she lives at 1078 Dotman Road, Milton and she is in the Semora district. She asked the Board to fund the fire tax because she would hate to think that if she needed the fire department to respond to her house and it was not there or they did not have the equipment needed to service her. She appreciates the fire department. When her parents were old and living it was a joy and a relief when her parents were sick they knew they could call 911 and the first responders would come and they did what was needed but that is only part of it when they came to their house they made them feel secure. She used to live in Halifax County and she support the fire department when she was there and now she is back home in Caswell County and if all the citizens can give a little bit it will help everybody and the residents truly need it. It is a wonderful, wonderful service. She added that she would hate to call the fire department to come to her house fire and they don’t respond because the Board would not fund it so she asked the Board to please consider funding the tax because it is not going to break the citizens.
Mr. Mike Stanley stated that he lives on Blanch Road on the 62 end. He asked the Commissioners if they could imagine having a house fire and having to put it out without firefighters, you are not going to do it unless you got a big garden house with fire truck capabilities. He stated some facts: fireman are now first responders with lifesaving skills and those skills have to be taught and they have to be upgraded and they have to be retaught and they have to be retrained. Fireman and women are not firemen really they are firefighters. He added that when he was a firefighter in the 70s what they did when they responded to a fire was rush with confidence. They knew that their personal gear including air packs would protect them. They also knew without fail the pumper would get them to their destination. If a fireman does not have confidence he risks not surviving. Firemen require first class equipment and training. Whenever you deal with personal property and your friends lives there is no room for negligent error therefore the county has no choice but to fund these fire departments with proper equipment and training. That is the bottom line for Caswell County right now and he urged the Board to put the tax in so that the firefighters could be protected as well as the citizens.
Ms. Marylene McCain stated that she lives in Semora on Highway 119 and she is here in support of the fire tax. She thinks they have good fireman in their community and also fire responders. She lives in a rural area about 17 or 18 miles outside of Yanceyville where the 911 is located and anytime they call 911 the first responders in her area are there. Not too long ago they had to use the first responders for her sister, at her church and they are always well trained and they come out and do what needs to be done and the firemen as well. She is in support of the fire tax.
Ms. Lisa Ashby stated that she lives at 3535 Highway 119N, Leasburg, NC and she is proud to be here on behalf of the greatest fire department in Caswell County, the Leasburg Fire Department. She added that they have many time been at her aid as she has been a caretaker for both of her parents in their home since 2005 through 2013. She called them many times. She is a nurse and she needed them when she was on the other side. They backed her up 100% and they were there every time she called. She watched as her father’s store burned to the ground but the fire department was there to support her not only with a fire hose but emotionally. She added that they are wonderful people and that we need to support them. The life you save today might be yours, yours, yours, it might be your child, your grandchild, your mother, and it is not all about the fire. It is about early access, quick access. As a nurse that is the first thing that is taught. The fireman will come when your child is choking, when your mother has fallen in the bathtub or broke a bone, etc. The county needs to have this service. She said that she could not express it enough how much they have supported her. She has been on the other side when the fireman bring the people in the emergency room and as a nurse that early access makes all the difference in the world when you are on the receiving end and that patient has had it with the property equipment and the proper people taking care of it on the scene. The firemen have to have the right equipment and their funds are running out and the citizens need to support them.
Mr. Johnny Hodges stated that he is with Providence Fire and Rescue and he has been with them for 33 years. He has been through a lot with the sheriff’s department, the EMS and the fire department. He asked if anybody was against the fire tax. There are 10 fire departments in the county and they cover the whole county. Not every fireman is here at this meeting because they are at home protecting your property. The county has lost 2 firefighters in 52 years. He was almost cut in half and he is a legion at Wake Forest University because they can’t understand why he still has his legs and is still alive because he got pinned between two fire trucks. The hottest he has ever been in his life and the coldest he has ever been in his life was when he was on a fire scene. The fireman all volunteer and they have been doing it for 60 years. He stated that he is proud of the young kids at the fire departments and he is tickled with the class coming up at the school system. The fire departments need this. He stated that the Board needed to think about this because the firemen put the Board into office. Half the citizens work outside of the county but they all come home every day and they want their house there and if someone gets sick in the middle of the night the ambulance will come from 3 places in the county but a fireman might be your next door neighbor and he can save your life.
Mr. Steve Carscaden stated that he lives in Leasburg, NC on Griers Church Road. He stated that he is going to approach this subject on a different aspect than everyone else. A first responder probably saved his life about a year and a half ago. He had surgery and came home and he was bleeding out on the kitchen floor and his wife panicked and called 911 and finally was able to tell them the address and within 5 minutes a first responder was there and stopped the bleeding, go him in an ambulance and took him to Duke and Duke told him if it had been another 15 or 20 minutes he probably would not have made it. He stated that he has had some personal experience with the firemen. He has also had some experience with the fundraising that they go through and you burn out real quick. He added that the citizens need to realize that with the upgrades at the fire departments that the homeowners insurance will go down drastically. He works at an insurance company and he ask what the insurance company can look for in a couple of years the homeowners insurance could go down $275 with just one point so it will make up the out of pocket cost that everyone is concerned about.
Mr. James Noell stated that he lived in the Providence district. He added that his hat is off to the fire department and the first responders. He would like to see money that is allotted to the fire departments goes to the fire departments. He also added that if you have an extra dollar don’t spend it buying a lottery ticket or a soda; send it to the fire departments.
Ms. Jane Sartin stated that she is in favor of the fire tax for the fire departments. She stated that she comes at this two fold, first she is a mother and a wife of three fire personnel in her home. It gives her great comfort to know that the state has passed all the regulations that when her sons or her husband go into a burning building that they will have the correct equipment that will hopefully keep them alive. Also if they are running calls on trucks that the trucks are up to date and are not going to fail. So far the fire department has been able to keep up but as the regulations change new equipment has to be bought and we can’t keep up. Secondly she comes as an educator, she is a counselor at Bartlett Yancey High School and the school system is delighted that the public safety and the firefighter classes are filling up and as Ms. Buchanan said they are full but the school system just needs to hire the teacher. If the county does not do anything to keep these 10 fire departments going then where are all of these children that are being trained to be firefighters hopeful in the county going to be able to go.
Ms. Tammy Strader Boone stated that she lives at 1893 Apple Road, Cherry Grove community. She is in favor of the fire tax. She believes the information that has been distributed throughout the county has stated the need for the county fire tax. She was present at one of the presentations and it helped her understand the need for funding. She added 10 departments, men and women all volunteer, 24/7 265 days a year. She stated that the citizens need to make sure that each department has the necessary equipment to respond to the needs of the county. She stated on a personal note that she wanted her son, a volunteer at Cherry Grove, to have what he needs to keep him safe while trying to serve the community. She asked how many meals a person could prepare without the proper cooking utensils or how long do you chance driving a vehicle without the proper oil levels, do you go out and plant an acre of grass without having a mower to keep it mowed so she asked how can the citizens expect the fire departments to provide fire protection, rescue services, fire responder medical care, weather related assistance and traffic control without needed materials. Becoming a fire service district would allow for upgrades whether it is newer trucks, thermal cameras, turnout gear, SCBA bottles, hoses or even paid firefighters, a possibility for station additions and updates. Fundraisers can still be done at fire departments and she thinks they should be but there will never be enough stew made or yard sales to keep the fire department at the standard it needs to be. She asked the Board to consider the approval because the citizens will benefit from it.
Mr. Robert Rocky Smith stated he is the pastor at Shiloh Baptist Church and he has not been here for 30 years, he has not been here for 50 years, he and his wife bought a home a little over a year ago. When of the things he found shocking is how little funding there was for the fire department. He came from Greensboro and his wife is from Connecticut. He found it ridiculous when he was asked to buy stew from the fire department because he has never seen such a thing. In Guilford County they have firefighters with starting salaries of $45,000. His taxes in Guilford County were three times what they are in Caswell County. His mom and dad’s taxes were not that much until the city annexed them and their taxes increased tremendously to add fire tax and that concerns him with Caswell County. He added that he will buy stew next year because he now knows what it means. He urged the Board as a new member of Caswell County to consider this vote and consider that the new residents don’t know the difference because a lot of people don’t understand why it takes 20 minutes when they are used to 5 minutes.
Mr. Roger Knight, Jr. stated he lives at 5278 Blanch Road. He stated that looking around this room he knew that everyone in this room would come to his house if there were an issue but unfortunately like most of the people in the room he does not have a fire district. He lives between two fire districts. This funding would allow the two fire departments to get the equipment and training that they need and one fire department to get certified so he would be in a fire district. The department will get certified within a year and it make take two but he is willing to pay that money. His parents and friends are in the room tonight and he wants them to have protection and he wants protection for himself and his family. He added that his family has used the services of the fire department. His house caught on fire in 1988 but the fire department and Steve Harris was the first to show up on the scene followed by people by Providence. About 10 years ago his oldest son was running through the house, fell and knocked himself out and gave himself a concussion and these folks were there long before EMS got there and that is what he is paying for that insurance to know that people are there to support his family and save them if need be.
Mr. Todd Hodges stated he lives at 958 Allison Road. He stated that he is not a fireman but there were more fireman in the room than he would ever be around so he wanted to thank every one of them for the hours and services they give the residents. He added nobody wants a new tax and that was one of the questions that he had, where does it go and how much. He looked into it and tried to find the answers and he found out that there is accountability set up and the money that is raised will actually go to the fire departments and not to some other project and this allows us the opportunity to know where our taxes are going. He supports the tax. He has property in three other counties in the state and he already pays fire taxes in those counties. He has lived in Caswell for 46 years and continues to live here. He wants to live in Caswell and it is important to him as a voter and it is important to him and his family to have this protection. He stated to the commissioners that if no one in the room is against the fire tax then their vote should be easy to make.
Mr. Harry Bray stated he lives at 3974 Blanch Road in Blanch. He thanked the Board on behalf of the fire department for being about to speak. He added that no one would find him coming to ask to have his taxes raised but he supports this and he urged the Board to do this. He started with the Providence Fire Department about 15 or 20 years ago. He serves on the board of directors and he is president of the department. Back when he started things cost a lot less, fundraising was a lot easier but now with the economy it is virtually impossible without grants from the federal government which are drying up and from the state which has been fairly level to make ends meet. He also thanked the firemen for what they do. He has had one unfortunate instance where he had to call 911 for his father and he turned out to be okay. When he thinks back to all the times that Providence spent fundraising he thinks that time should have been spent on training so when they are called out they would have the training that he need for saving lives.
Mr. Lynn Lunsford stated he lives in Milton. He has been a fireman for 38 years and he knows that everyone here knows what the fire departments do in the county but he is not sure everyone knows the money that is put into the departments. The regular turnout gear is $3000 a piece and it has to be replaced every 10 years. With 30 firemen that is a lot of money and every fire department has a minimum of three or four trucks and trucks need to be replaced every 8 years and that is replacing a 25 year old truck. The SCBAs is $3000 a piece and they have to be replaced every 5 or 6 years and this is not including the building, the upkeep and all the miscellaneous stuff to run calls. There is a lot of time spent on fundraising that should be spent on training. The county needs to support this. He said that he is a landowner and he has a son that is a fireman and he would like to see the county support the people that is trying to help the county.
Mr. David Wrenn stated that he lives at 130 Shady Grove Road in the Providence district. What the Board is talking about is a continuation of the money that the County appropriate last year so in an essence the Board has created the funding apparatus and now the Board wants to make it a permanent tax. What he has not found out and he has asked his local commissioner about the guidelines. He asked how the money would be appropriate out. Would it come back to the department based on call volume, by capita, by population or by equal share for each fire department? He also asked about the guidelines on spending. Would it be for anything or salaries, operating expenses, capital expenditures? He asked where the ownership was and who owns the fire department if it is sold, the taxpayers or the departments. He then asked what the long range plans are, where is the accountability. These are things that he would like to know before any tax dollars are taken or spent. He asked the Board to set up guidelines for future generations to follow.
Mr. Brian Massey stated he lives at 271 North 10th Avenue in Yanceyville. He was asked to come before the commissioners to explain the expenditures from last year for the Yanceyville Fire Department. This fire department is very fortunate to have a considerable amount of funding that comes from the Town of Yanceyville and the County. He gave a list of items that were purchased with the money the county gave them last year. They bought a used pumper/tanker truck. This truck is to be used as a third call out that will assist everybody in the county. They have also purchased hoses, valves, walkies, radios, rescue tools, turnout gear, medical supplies, O2 oxygen sensors, foam conductors, training equipment, foam, crowbars, bolt cutters, rescue rope, truck charging system, air pump, truck repairs, parts, machine work. The labor to the fire trucks is done by the fireman free of charge. They purchased a standby generator for the station. The fire department is not asking for a handout but a hand up. There are departments in the county that are struggling and there are departments that will have to make a decision based on the outcome of whether they will be able to stay open or close. If they close that means other stations will have to pick up the slack. This will be hard to do now. It is a life and death situation and firefighter has been lost in the county. A lot of people use the terminology of a redneck fireman running up and down the roads with a red light until the day that person needs that redneck fireman and then he or she is considered an angel. As a citizen he asked for the Board’s support and he knows there are guidelines that have to be met but common sense tells everyone that if this is not done then there will be bad days in the future and if this is done there will be better days.
The Board took a brief recess.
Chairman Travis called the meeting back to order and he asked to hear from the chiefs from the fire departments on how they spent the money that was given by the county last year.
Mr. Kenneth Everett stated he wanted to thank the citizens, fireman, wives and everyone that came in support of the fire tax. He is the fire chief in Providence. He stated that everyone is also behind the Board and the decisions that they make on the future of the fire service in Caswell County. Starting July 1st through today every fire department will tell the Board and the citizens how the money has been spent so far. Providence Fire Department was able to get rid of a 1985 tanker and they were able to replace that truck. The money was used to purchase hoses, nozzles, air packs and a few other appliances for the truck. Also a hose dryer, a turn out gear dryer, a new ice machine for the fire station and some rescue jacks. Leasburg will go next.
Mr. Gaither Clayton stated he is the chief for Leasburg Fire Department and has been chief for 25 years and an active firefighter for 30 years. What the department has used the money for this past year is for the future and they are looking to buy the turnout gear that has to be replaced every 10 years. Their air packs are needing to be replaced and the SCBA bottles for the air packs. The big thing they are looking at is building a substation in Leasburg. The first step is to finding land and they have found a spot so they are going through the first stage of purchasing this land and to build a substation and the total cost of that is $250,000. This is something the board of directors wants. This substation will be used for training or any activities the fire departments want to use it for. One of their goals is to certify the station to decrease the insurance rating. They also are looking to purchase another truck. Right now they have 4 trucks, 2 pumper/tankers and they are looking to purchase another pumper/tanker. He added as a taxpayer he does not like taxes but the county is limited on resources so raising taxes is the only way to go for the fire service tax.
Mr. Harvey Rudd stated that he was coming before the Board tonight in a different capacity than normal; he comes as a 36 year chief of the Anderson Fire Department. They have been talking about different things like equipment, trucks but they have spent $12,000 on insurance, they put a roof on their building, and they are dealing with a well right now, the normal bills like the phone bill, turnout gear, radios, tires for trucks, air packs, and rescue equipment. He thinks they have managed the money very well and he thanked the people of the Anderson community for supporting the fire department over the years and he thanked the Board for their support as well.
Mr. Blane Ward stated he is the chief of the Cherry Grove Fire Department. He personally thanked the Board for the extra money that was provided this year. With that money they were able to have the ceiling in the department replaced. They also had insulation blown in throughout the department and they had sheetrock completed in the back room of the department to be able to have a meeting and training room. They also will be able to install a heating and air unit in the training room. They are currently having the department painted interior and exterior. They are looking to replace the bay doors that have been up since the early 80s. They have also applied for a state grant and with this money they hope to get fire gear for the firemen as well as pagers and multi gas meters to be able to detect carbon monoxide and other types of gases. They also applied for a commercial washing machine in the grant.
Mr. Bobby Dodson stated he is the chief of the Semora Volunteer Fire Department. Their major purchase this year was they replaced a 19 year old truck and they hope to take delivery of a new pumper/tanker in June of this year. They bought new air packs and bottles, replaced a lot of the turnout gear, walkies, mobiles and mobile radios plus miscellaneous repairs, insurance and maintenance.
Mr. Josh Benfield stated he is the chief of Pelham Volunteer Fire Department. Over the past year they have been able to upgrade their building with the monies given by the county. They added a new air conditioning unit to the building. Also updated some aging communication equipment that they had have for 10 years or so. They are in the process of updating their accounting software so they can be held more accountable to the Board and the citizens. They have set some money back to apply for a state grant to replace 2 brush trucks that they have already sold and two first responder vehicles. They also have some aging SCBA equipment.
Mr. Johnny Wright stated that he is chief of the Prospect Hill Fire Department. He has been there since 1990 and has been chief since 1996. With the money the county gave last year they were able to replace two heating and air conditioning systems that were 26 years old. They also bought a 2000 model truck to replace a 41 year old pumper. It will be fire and rescue combined. Looking into the future they have specked out a brand new truck and this will cost $400,000+.
Mr. Mitch Foster stated that he is with the Casville Volunteer Fire Department. They spent over $3000 on truck maintenance, $4635 on building maintenance and repair, $17,198 on fire equipment and they are looking to build a new station. The current station was built back in 1962. There are some major issues and problems, this past week with all the rain the back wall was bowing in. There is a 6000 water tank behind the station that has caused the back wall to come in. They spent $33,000 on a land purchase. They desperately need this money. Casville is fortunate to have a fire district tax but none of the citizens will be doubled taxed. The new building is estimated at three quarter of a million dollars. Need to replace a tanker truck that is 29 years old. They are looking to consider adding several part time firemen. It is estimated that they will need $187,000 over the next 15 to 30 years. He asked the Board to strongly consider the fire district tax.
Mr. Stephen Harris stated most people call him Biscuit and he is the fire chief at Milton Fire Department. They put gutters on their fire department. They are also working on two new static points for their district with the anticipation of reducing their ISO rating in the future. They are brokering a deal currently to purchase a truck to replace a 1976 model truck. They are hoping to pick up a few more members so they can get their substation certified.
Mr. Vernon Massengill stated he is the chief of the Yanceyville Fire Department. He said that he is not usually at a loss for words but tonight he is because of the thunder storm watch and warning and tornado watch and warning and look at the people here tonight. This is citizens supporting what they know is necessary. All the legal requirements have been followed in North Carolina statute 153A-302. The departments appreciate the appropriations from last year. He held in his hand numerous newspaper articles of fire departments lacking volunteers and funding. It is not a Caswell County thing and it needs to be addressed. He stated that when many people are running away from danger firefighters are running towards the danger. They are there to extricate people from vehicles. They are there to do CPR and water rescues when necessary. They are there under adverse weather conditions. They leave their families and property to go protect other families and property. They are there when professional counseling is needed. Being a firefighter takes an emotional toll on every fireman. He personally thanked every fireman and their spouses and children of the county because they make the firefighter. He asked the Board for their support to approve the Caswell County Fire Service District and to fund this at 4 cents per $100 valuation. He added that the biggest asset Caswell County has is the fire service and the people that serve within the fire service. They understand it will be the citizen’s monies and they want to be held accountable for the citizen’s monies and they want to make sure that the citizen’s monies are spent to better the fire service in Caswell County.
Commissioner McVey moved, seconded by Commissioner to end the public hearing on the Caswell County Fire Service District and to go back into regular session. The motion carried unanimously.
Commissioner McVey stated “Mr. Chairman I would like to report the findings on this to the Caswell County citizens. Caswell County recognizes that there is a demonstrable need for providing fire protection services to all citizens in the County. Given the information on the proposed Fire Protection Service District as presented above, it is recommended that the Caswell County Board of Commissioners finds as follows:
1. That there is a demonstrable need for providing fire protection services in the proposed district through a multiple-source, full service and comprehensive responding agency;
2. That it would be impracticable to provide those services on a countywide basis as fire protection services can most economically and efficiently be served through the County’s current system of community volunteer departments providing fire protection and that there is an existing Rural Fire Service District within the boundary of Caswell County that extends into another county;
3. That it is economically feasible to provide fire protection services in the proposed new Caswell Special Fire Protection Service District by levying a service district tax in the
proposed district up to an amount that is comparable to the amounts being levied in other fire tax districts in the State and that such levy would not constitute an unreasonable or burdensome annual tax levies on the citizens and residents of the proposed district; and
4. That citizenry of Caswell County have established that there exists a demonstrable
demand for the proposed services by persons residing in the district.
The proposed Caswell County Special Fire Protection Rescue Service District does in fact meet the standards set forth in NCGS 153A-302.”
Commissioner McVey moved for the Commissioners to vote on setting up a Fire Service District and at which time we are able to view the County budget we will decide on a tax amount and the way it should be distributed.
Mr. Miller stated “Commissioners before taking a vote on this it might be appropriate to approve the findings that were read before continuing forward with the current motion.”
Commissioner McVey moved, seconded by Commissioner Owen to approve the findings. The motion carried unanimously.
Mr. Miller stated “Mr. Chairman I will make just one more point of reference before you move any further. We do have a certification from South Data that 20,385 notices were mailed on 4/1/2017 concerning the public hearing in the matter of the proposed fire service district in Caswell County, NC. It is signed by a South Data representative, I can’t really read the name but it is signed 5/1/17 and attested to as well.”
Commissioner McVey moved, seconded by Commissioner Jefferies to set up the fire district tax and at the time that the Board views the budget an amount will be set and how the money will be distributed throughout the county. The motion carried unanimously.
Chairman Travis stated “Thank every one of you for being here tonight. It was good to see everyone turn out and I hope that we all can move forward with this.”
At 8:13 Commissioner McVey moved, seconded by Commissioner S. Carter to adjourn. The motion carried unanimously.
Paula P. Seamster Kenneth D. Travis
Clerk to the Board Chairman