Commissioners hear request for fire tax increase from Endy fire department

ALBEMARLE — The Stanly County commissioners met Monday evening with a relatively short agenda that included several zoning decisions to promote economic growth, approval of agricultural district applications and a presentation on the volunteer fire department operations in Endy.

The meeting began with recognition of Jeanette Eatman on her retirement from the Department of Social Services. Eatman has worked in the department for 30 years. Commissioner Jann Lowder made the presentation of the retirement award on behalf of the board. Eatman was also awarded the Order of the Longleaf Pine which was issued by Gov. Roy Cooper.

Cliff Robinson, president of the board of directors, and Daniel Poplin, Endy fire chief, made a presentation to the board on challenges facing the Endy volunteer fire department.

Robinson told the board that he had been a part of the volunteer fire department organization for several years and had worked with the local board and fire department staff to improve the department.

“We’ve made some changes and made some significant moves, and we have some things that we need to talk to you about tonight,” said Robinson.

He said his goal was to help the department improve its fire rating which would ultimately lower home insurance rates.

“This past February, the state came in and audited our department,” said Robinson. “Our audit was just impeccable.” Robinson said he was told by the auditor that with more training and better equipment, the department could improve its fire rating.

Robinson said that the state later followed up the audit saying the department has “equipment issues.” He said the state recommended that the department get new equipment and use nothing over 25 years old.

“We sat down … and said we’ve got to figure out how to make this department better,” said Robinson. “I realized, being a business man, we’ve got to have better equipment. I was absolutely stunned at the cost of fire equipment.

“We knew we weren’t going to buy new equipment on our current fire tax cost,” he added. “We are currently at 6 cents per hundred, the second lowest fire tax in the county.” The town of Oakboro is the lowest. Robinson said that everyone else in the county is at 10 cents except Southside, which is at 12 cents per hundred.

“I hate to raise taxes on people,” Robinson said. But he said that improving the rating would lower home insurance about $50 per home on average.  Robinson said that a tax increase would still be a net increase for property owners in terms of annual costs when the potential insurance decrease was balanced against an increase in fire tax.

Robinson asked the board to approve an increase in fire tax for Endy from 6 cents to 10 cents, which would generate approximately $83,000 in additional income for the fire department.

If approved, Robinson said the department would like to order a new tanker pumper truck in March 2019. He also said that vehicle maintenance is mounting with more than $30,000 in vehicle maintenance for the past two years. Robinson said one issue is that the equipment does not get used enough.

Robinson proposed that the increase in revenue would be separated in the budget for use exclusively for capital improvements and equipment. He said the stream of income would support new equipment purchases and the final payments on their building.

Commissioner Gene McIntyre asked about the population of the Endy community. Poplin said the community has approximately 3,400 residents. Robinson said Endy community members who he spoke to had no objections to the plan. The commissioners took no action on the request.

The commissioners later approved three rezoning requests which county manager Andy Lucas described as aimed toward spurring “additional development, investment and job creation in Stanly County.”

The commissioners will meet again Oct. 15, 2018.