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Reverse the decision to cancel the Fire Service Agreement with Providence VFD

This petition had 910 supporters


Fire Service is not a moneymaking business, nor a “for-profit” industry. However, it IS a fundamental part of a strong community.  You can’t put a price tag on someone’s life.  Should the Town contract with the lowest cost provider or the highest skilled provider?  Even through lean budget years PVFD has improved its efficiencies and capabilities to be awarded with an ISO rating of 4 in the Town of Weddington and a 4/9E in the unincorporated parts of Union and Mecklenburg counties. Providence VFD is currently the ONLY volunteer department in Union County with this superior designation and ranks in the top 8% in the State of North Carolina.  The Town Mayor and a majority of the Council in Weddington have voted to end their relationship with Providence VFD as of July 29, 2015.

Please sign this petition to support Providence VFD.  The Union County BOCC is working on a unified countywide fire service and EMT solution.  We are asking the Town of Weddington to reverse their decision to cancel the Fire Service Agreement with Providence VFD.  This will give Union County the time necessary to develop a comprehensive countywide strategic plan that is efficient and cost effective.  

 

By signing this petition you will join others in the Western Union County area who believe the decision of the Weddington Town Council impacts citizens both in Weddington and outside their jurisdiction.  It should not be made without a full impact study and agreement from ALL towns and unincorporated areas affected.  We are asking the Town of Weddington to cooperate WITH the County, not against them. 

Major impact to actions of the Weddington Town Council:

Lower quality of fire service – Currently there are 47 men and women at Providence VFD, a majority of whom have been trained and serve as Charlotte firefighters.  The building is occupied with 4 Certified firefighters and EMT’s 24/7/365, in the station ready to respond to emergencies.  This level of personnel will be gone if Providence VFD closes.  Wesley Chapel VFD has indicated they will have 3 firefighters during the day and 2 in-station personnel at night with 2 on call.  These “on call” volunteers may be anywhere in the fire district and are not guaranteed to be Certified firefighters or EMT’s.

Higher Cost to Neighboring Fire Departments – Without Providence VFD, the burden of mutual and automatic aid is transferred to neighboring departments who must travel farther away from their “home” stations.  This places added apparatus and personnel strain on the ability to cover their own fire district while concurrently assisting Wesley Chapel VFD in their large district.  The added cost to these outlining departments may be passed on to residents within those neighboring districts.

Mutual and Automatic Aid – Two independent fire departments must respond to every fire call.  If Wesley Chapel VFD takes over the Providence VFD station the WCVFD district increases from 35 square miles to 50 square miles.  That means aid will come from farther away.  A fire doubles in size every minute. 

Approx. 43% of Weddington does not have fire hydrants and is dependent on the fire department to be the source of water to put out fires.  Those neighborhoods with hydrants are currently still at risk because of the low water pressure issue in this part of the County.  Until the new water tower is on line even those neighborhoods with hydrants are dependent on a secondary source of water to extinguish house fires.

Please note that during WCVFD’s last State ISO inspection 50% of the water hauling capability was attributed to Providence VFD apparatus.  Providence VFD has apparatus capable of carrying 6000 gallons of water.  Wesley Chapel VFD and other neighboring departments rely on this supply to shuttle water. 

If the Providence station closes ALL APPARATUS AND EQUIPMENT ALSO GOES AWAY.  The additional cost to replace this equipment and apparatus along with the cost to “aid” Weddington WILL impact Marvin, Wesley Chapel, Waxhaw, Stallings, Mineral Springs, Unionville and Indian Trail…even parts of Mecklenburg County. 

Higher Homeowner Insurance – The State Office of Insurance has repeatedly stated that any “significant” change to a fire district can result in a higher ISO Rating, which means higher cost for homeowner insurance, possibly hundreds for each household.  The State will not know the impact until after the fact, once personnel and apparatus are inspected.  This can take over a year.  This rating change may affect EVERY resident in the Wesley Chapel VFD fire district, not just Weddington.

One other factor to consider is the possibility that all neighboring fire departments may need to be re-inspected and/or have their ISO Rating modified because of the closing of Providence VFD.  All these departments are dependent on each other for hauling water and support personnel.  With a link in this chain being taken away the effect may ripple throughout the Western side of Union County.  An increase in the ISO Rating could raise homeowners’ insurance cost for ANY fire district. 

Weddington pays twice –The Town of Weddington is giving away the land and building on Hemby Road for a fraction of what we paid for it from Town tax dollars.  Weddington residents paid $915K for the PVFD station on Hemby Road,.  If the Town sells this asset (appraised at $1.6M) to Wesley Chapel VFD and WCVFD restructures their current loan debt (which they have already scheduled a public hearing to discuss on May 26, 2015) then Weddington taxpayers will pay a second time for the same building via higher fire taxes. Residents in the rest of the Wesley Chapel fire district will also absorb the cost via higher fire taxes.  In addition, if this asset is sold for $712K (listed price in the proposed Town budget for fiscal year 2015-16), taxpayers will realize an immediate loss of $203K ($915K - $712K) and a potential loss of investment of $888K ($1.6M-$712K). 

Loss of Community – Providence VFD was formed by original land owners of Union County 60 years ago.  In its beginnings, Providence VFD served an area from Waxhaw up Providence Road to the Arboretum.  As Charlotte annexed more and more of Mecklenburg County the Providence VFD district shrunk, but the funds provided by Mecklenburg County supported most of the apparatus currently being used at PVFD today.  PVFD was established as a community organization and dedicates its services to the residents of this community.  Weddington does not have much sense of community...no central park, no town center, no library...but what we DO have is a fire department.  Don't allow this Council to take away this one icon of pride.

History:

Since December 2009 PVFD has had 24/7/365 in-station staffing to provide the best around the clock emergency services to the citizens of Weddington and areas of Mecklenburg and unincorporated Union County. In order to maintain this level of service and grow as a department, additional funding was repeatedly requested from Weddington. The Town chose to NOT provide sufficient funding to cover this level of service, requiring PVFD to fund operations from its reserves. 

In 2012 the Town of Weddington created the Municipal Fire District to more effectively manage fire services at a local level and enhance the level of service for citizens while directly managing the cost of service. PVFD was designated as the Primary Fire Department for Weddington with contracted assistance from neighboring departments .  This insured residents would receive the fastest response AND have access to 4 qualified firefighters and EMTs, with 24/7/365 in-station response from Hemby Rd. This enhanced level of service is what the citizens of Weddington, in conjunction with previous Councils, indicated they desired.

In September 2014 the Town purchased the land and building, currently occupied by Providence VFD, on Hemby Road. The Town is preparing to sell this asset (appraised at 1.6M) for between $500K - $750K to Wesley Chapel VFD WITHOUT a Town public hearing or input from taxpayers. 

Fast forward to 2015:  On April 28, 2015 the Town of Weddington held a Special Town Council meeting to discuss and consider fire service.  Over 130 residents showed up to that meeting to voice their support for Providence VFD but were denied the opportunity to speak.  The State of North Carolina Fire Marshal and State Inspections Supervisor drove over 3 hours to attend and give expert opinion about how a “significant impact to a fire service area” could negatively impact the ISO Rating and cause homeowners insurance cost to go up.  The Mayor denied their opportunity to speak.  With citizens filling Town Hall and overflowing onto the porch, the Mayor refused to change the venue to a larger space so everyone could hear the proceedings. 

 At this meeting a majority of Town Council (with Councilwoman Pamela Hadley opposed) voted to cancel the Fire Service Agreement with Providence VFD and contract with the neighboring department of Wesley Chapel VFD.  With your support we hope enough pressure will be felt by the Council in Weddington to reverse their decision and restore contracts for fire service to Providence VFD.

Other relevant facts:

 Weddington is the third most affluent town in the State of North Carolina and the second most affluent town in Union County, yet, the tax burden to the residents is proportionally one of the lowest for fire service in the State. 

 PVFD has had to manage significant increases in operating expense while dealing with revenue reductions outside of our direct control.  Our funding from Mecklenburg County has been reduced by nearly $39,500 since 2011. Our insurance costs, including Workers’ Compensation, has increased nearly $14,000 during that same period.

On May 5, 2015 a resolution was unanimously approved by the Union County Board of Commissioners.  It was directed at the Town of Weddington, asking the Mayor and Council to reverse their actions while Union County reviews a revision of fire service management that is being created, to be implemented in fiscal year 2016-2017.  The mayor refused to acknowledge this resolution stating he could not pass up the opportunity to save the Town $230K.  

The Town of Weddington used taxpayer money to send out a "letter of commitment" assuring homeowners that insurance cost would not increase, the level of service at the Hemby station would remain the same or be better, and that 4 in-station CERTIFIED firefighters (2 of which would be EMT's) be staffed at the Hemby station.  The Board of Directors at Providence VFD did not sign this letter because the Town has NO CONTROL over the State Dept. of Insurance ratings which affects homeowner insurance cost, and once Wesley Chapel VFD is in control of fire service for the town, NO CONTROL over the level of service provided.  

 

 

 



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Judy Johnston needs your help with “Town of Weddington, Mayor Bill Deter, Councilman, Councilman Don Titherington, Councilwoman Pamela Hadley: Reverse the decision to cancel the Fire Service Agreement with Providence VFD”. Join Judy and 909 supporters today.