Fire chiefs petition commissioners

By Jeff Linville - jlinville@mtairynews.com
Westfield Volunteer Fire Department brings site maps and blueprints for an expansion of its fire station to a meeting with county commissioners this week. - Jeff Linville | The News
Westfield Fire Chief Jonathan Sutphin answers questions from county officials while his father, Phil, watches in the background. - Jeff Linville | The News

Editor’s Note: This is the second of two articles detailing budget requests made by Surry County fired departments to the county board of commissioners during a meeting this week.

DOBSON — Twelve different volunteer fire departments came before the county Board of Commissioners Tuesday, with 10 of them are seeking an increase in fire tax.

While White Plains and Jot-Um-Down fire departments are not seeking any increases in their respective fire district taxes, others are.

Officials from Westfield brought drawings of how a big expansion of its current facility will look.

The bays in the current building aren’t big enough for some of the new trucks, explained Chief Jonathan Sutphin. The new bays will be over to the left and accessible from the old bays by crossing through some new living/storage areas for personnel.

Like South Surry, Westfield is already planning a space for a future quick-response vehicle to be based in the firehouse.

Sutphin said he has spoken to the local Ruritan Club, church groups and other people in the community — folks are excited about this quick-response unit. This one apparatus can save lives in the community, he said.

He noted one elderly lady who fell and broke her ankle. It took 15 minutes for help to arrive, and she almost bled out from the open wound.

Westfield didn’t ask for anything last year, said Sutphin, but with this new construction in the works, the department asks for an increase from 5.7 to 7.3 cents.

With the expansion, and part-time workers in the office three days a week, Sutphin said he can practically guarantee the ISO rating will drop from 9 to 7, and he is hoping for 6. The ISO rating is used by insurance companies to determine the cost of home owner’s insurance, with the lower the rate, the better. That inspection was supposed to have happened already, but the state put it off until this fall, he added.

Other fire department presentations included:

Pilot Knob said it has outgrown its location on Key Street/N.C. 268, but doesn’t have a new site selected yet.

The station was remodeled in 1998, but there just isn’t any room left, said Chief Derrick Manuel.

As it is the only district with a town inside it, Pilot Knob has by far the largest tax base at more than $446 million, according to valuation estimates from the county.

Manuel said the department needs a new brush truck. And, he would like to expand the part-time help to make sure someone is around all five weekdays. He said the additional manpower would cost about $25,000.

The department is asking for $4,300 more in funding, which is about 0.1 cent in tax increase.

Bannertown hasn’t asked for any tax increase in a while, started off Chief Scottie Chilton and board President Rondale Ratcliff.

The department wants to create four part-time paid firefighter positions. The combined salaries would be $20,800; with gear, insurance and other expenses, it would be $32,000 total.

From 4 p.m. to 6 a.m., Chilton said he has been fortunate with volunteers. It’s just during working hours that it gets tight.

Treasurer David Smith said a one-cent increase ($36,986 per penny) would cover the employee expense, plus a couple of pairs of turn-out gear.

Bannertown’s ISO is already a 5, noted Ratcliff, tied with Franklin for the best among the volunteer departments. Bannertown was just a tick away from a 4 last year, he said, which is almost unheard of for a rural volunteer department. Rondale.

Ararat officials said they really didn’t want a tax increase, but their budget shows an increase of $14,000, which would push the rate from 8.0 to 9.3 cents.

Chief Wes Key said the department has an ISO of 9 and has some needs to meet before that number can come down.

One of those needs is a brush truck. He said the department runs three brush fires for every house fire, and he only has one brush truck to fight them.

He said the department would like to add a part-time worker, but that won’t happen in the next fiscal year.

The budget submitted by Franklin didn’t show a need for a tax increase, but Chief Johnny Hiatt, and a big entourage, came in seeking 1.3 cents.

Hiatt said he has two paid firefighters at one station, and since August that part-time position has been credited with saving four lives.

Franklin had 828 calls last year and no full-time employees, he said. The city of Mount Airy had 1,766 calls and has six paid firemen going all the time.

He is looking to add part-time help at the other station.

The department asked for 2 cents last year and only got 0.7 cents, noted Doug Coble, Franklin board member. This year, the group is seeking the remaining 1.3 cents.

The board asked how much the department receives from the city for providing mutual aid. Hiatt replied $6,500.

“That’s chicken feed,” said Commissioner Larry Johnson.

No decision was made at Tuesday’s meeting. County Manager Chris Knopf will take all the incoming requests and put together a preliminary budget plan for the board to consider.

For a list of the other requests, see Fire chiefs petition the county in the April 26 edition of The Mount Airy News.

Westfield Volunteer Fire Department brings site maps and blueprints for an expansion of its fire station to a meeting with county commissioners this week.
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_Fire-Westfield-plans_filtered.jpgWestfield Volunteer Fire Department brings site maps and blueprints for an expansion of its fire station to a meeting with county commissioners this week. Jeff Linville | The News

Westfield Fire Chief Jonathan Sutphin answers questions from county officials while his father, Phil, watches in the background.
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_Fire-Westfield-Chief_filtered.jpgWestfield Fire Chief Jonathan Sutphin answers questions from county officials while his father, Phil, watches in the background. Jeff Linville | The News

By Jeff Linville

jlinville@mtairynews.com

Jeff is the news editor and can be reached at 415-4692.

Jeff is the news editor and can be reached at 415-4692.