Mount Airy officials have decided that it’s OK to share concerning the use of a new aerial fire truck in areas outside the city limits.
“This is about being a good neighbor,” Mayor Deborah Cochran said Thursday night when the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a dispatch agreement for the vehicle which was requested by Franklin Volunteer Fire Department officials.
It will allow for the city’s ladder truck, a kind of vehicle the Franklin department lacks, to be deployed to areas in that department’s territory in order to improve fire-suppression capabilities there.
While the agreement calls for the vehicle to be dispatched to “any predetermined location” in the Franklin district, it specifically refers to North Surry High School and Franklin Elementary School along with Gentry and Meadowview middle schools.
Mount Airy Fire Chief Zane Poindexter told the commissioners Thursday night that a fire at those locations would obviously create a potential for major loss of life.
That seemed to strike a chord with Commissioner Dean Brown, who recalled two such school tragedies in the 1950s.
“I’m old enough to remember the Flat Rock School fire and the Franklin School fire in the same year,” Brown said. The incident at Flat Rock was especially costly, resulting in the death of a teacher and student and 25 pupils receiving severe burns.
Brown also cited a fire during the same era which destroyed Martin Memorial Hospital in Mount Airy, the predecessor to Northern Hospital.
He said if a similar event were to occur at one of the four schools now targeted, “we’d need that fire truck out there for sure.”
Along with taller structures such as the hospital, Mount Airy’s 100-foot platform truck would aid in other fires at larger, spread-out facilities such as schools due to its maneuverability.
Commissioner Steve Yokeley pointed out that both he and and fellow board member Shirley Brinkley reside in the Franklin School District and is sure their neighbors will appreciate the extra protection the new agreement offers.
It will allow for the Mount Airy Fire Department to respond with its aerial truck, when available, to the neighboring district.
There was some concern on the part of commissioners Thursday night about conflicts that could arise when fires occurred simultaneously in the city and Franklin district.
While every effort would be made to provide the vehicle when requested by Franklin, should the truck fail to respond when deemed appropriate by the city fire chief, Mount Airy will face no liability under the agreement.
Commissioner Jon Cawley also was concerned about the aerial truck being tied up on outside calls involving false alarms, but was told by Poindexter that this usually is not an issue with the neighboring fire personnel.
“A lot of times these folks will get on the scene, tell us it’s a false alarm and tell us we’re not needed.”
Poindexter said the aerial truck agreement reflects a spirit of cooperation with the Franklin department, which helps with fires in the city from time to time.
Zoning Matters Approved
Also Thursday night, Mount Airy’s commissioners voted in favor of a zoning amendment to allow more housing units to exist on designated acreage than are presently permitted; a rezoning change to accommodate an auto business expansion; and the closing of a portion of a road.
Each case involved a 5-0 decision and came after public hearings in which no one voiced opposition to the moves.
• In the matter involving housing density, the board’s action increases the number of dwelling units allowed per acre from five to 12. This will affect residential group development in Mount Airy, such as a new 56-unit apartment complex to be constructed near Walmart.
The higher density allowance conforms to recommendations in the Vision Plan, a long-range land-use planning document adopted by Mount Airy officials in 2001 to guide future development in the municipality.
• The rezoning vote affects a one-acre site at 251 Old Ridge Road near Flat Rock owned by Lane D. Edwards and Tonya W. Edwards. It has been rezoned from a residential classification to B-2 (General Business).
The change was sought to allow the expansion of an existing garage there to include a paint shop as part of auto body repair work, Edwards told city officials Thursday night. He hopes it will lead to the creation of jobs, possibly five to six within about five years, according to the rezoning petition.
“I’ve had my neighbors all sign a petition in support of it,” Edwards said of the request.
“It’s obvious you live in a great neighborhood,” Mayor Cochran responded. “All your neighbors are on the same page.”
• The road-closing decision pertains to a portion of Stonebrook Drive, located off Parker Road in northern Mount Airy. Richard Johnson, one of the owners of property there who requested the closure, said the affected roadway originally was a cul-de-sac to provide access to four separate lots.
Due to a property revision, access will only be needed to two lots, said Johnson, who explained that he no longer will require access to his property off Stonebrook Drive but Wyncrest Terrace. The closure will deprive no one else of access, city documents show.
Johnson said after the meeting that the property is in a subdivision where plans call for houses to be built, depending on the economy.
In other business, the city board approved reappointments to the Mount Airy Tourism Development Authority, a group that works to market the city using proceeds from a tax on lodging establishments.
Trudy Willard and Ben Webb were approved for new three-year terms to expire in January 2016.
“They’ve done a wonderful job and we’d like to appoint them once again,” the mayor said.
In addition, Commissioner Shirley Brinkley was reappointed to the TDA for a one-year term representing the city board and Finance Officer John Overton was reappointed for the same length as an ex-officio, or non-voting, member.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.