Fire district shift to benefit homeowners

First Posted: 1/6/2009

DOBSON Surry County Fire Marshal Doug Jones addressed the county commissioners Monday night about possible changes to two county fire districts.
Jones told the board that because part of Four Way Volunteer Fire Departments district was annexed by the city of Mount Airy, the department lost tax revenue, making it hard for the volunteer department to continue operating two stations.
Im here tonight to give you an update. Basically, Four Way lost quite a bit of revenue. They are currently looking at the Wards Gap station and possibly getting that area switched over to the Franklin Fire district so that homeowners dont lose their insurance ratings, Jones said.
The area involved includes Parker Road, which is outside of the city limits.
We are not ready tonight to recommend any changes, but maybe within a month we can come back and ask that you make a decision. First, we have to get a petition. Members of the Four Way fire department will go to every house and let them know what is going on. I believe they are looking at the best interest of everyone involved, noted Jones.
He told the commissioners that having Franklin Volunteer Fire Department take over that part of the district will save homeowners on their insurance premiums.
With Franklins rating, (insurance) should decrease by at least 24 to 25 percent. Franklin has a lower tax rate. This is a win, win, win situation, Jones said.
Commissioners questioned Jones on what will be done with the Four Way substation.
They do intend to sell the property at some time. When they built the new station, they still owed some on the substation.
Jones said 160 parcels of land, including 60 homes, will be possibly be taken on by the Franklin department if they get enough signatures on the petition.
Franklin Fire Chief Harold Hooker said Tuesday night that Four Way fire department is planning to cease operations at its Wards Gap Station. He said the people living on Parker Road and Webster Road and all of the side roads will be affected.
Nothing on Wards Gap Road will be transferred, Jones said.
Jones said if the decision is made to transfer the districts over, the plan is to sell the substation and take the proceeds to pay off the debt on the new station on McBride Road.
If they sell the station, then they can pay off the debt. If they are able to lower their debt, they can cut the tax rate in the Four Way district.
Commissioner Jimmy Miller asked Jones if the city of Mount Airy had any interest in purchasing the substation.
Mount Airy said its too far out, Jones responded.
Jones explained that all that is left in the process is to get a two-thirds majority on a petition.
After the petition is signed, a public hearing will need to be held at a future commissioners meeting. Jones said he anticipates that happening in either February or March.
We just need to make sure that everybody knows what is going on. I think everyone will be supportive of it, Jones concluded.
The (people affected) are located only three miles from our Greenhill Station. Franklin has a Class 6 ISO rating in our fire district, which will lower insurance rates and lower the tax rate for those residents who are affected. It will actually be .02 cents on the dollar cheaper than it is with Four Way. That is actually going to help the people and put a fire station closer to them, said Hooker.
This actually came about from the Four Way department, he said. They wanted to make sure the people affected would still be included in a fire district while they discontinue the use of their substation facility.
Franklin Fire Department is looking forward to serving the people of that area, Hooker said.
Contact Mondee Tilley at [email protected] or at 719-1930.

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