PENDER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Wednesday night, Pender County Commissioners will be discussing whether they want to approve a merger between several volunteer fire departments and Pender EMS. The public will also be able to weigh in during the meeting.
One of the departments involved in the merger is the Surf City Volunteer Fire Department. Several members spoke out Tuesday, saying they hope the merger goes through, adding that they hope it will give their department the opportunity to stay together.
Last week, commissioners voted to cancel their contract, shutting them down in about 180 days.
"We hope the merger will give us a chance to stay together, and to add to our family," explained Pamela Hulst, a volunteer. The SCVFD has been in existence since 1966, and volunteers say by training and working together over the years, they've learned to trust each other.
"You run into a burning building, and it's just dark inside...you have to be able to trust your partner and your colleague with your life," said Taylor Jones, who has been volunteering at the department since he was 13.
Volunteers say they are more than just co-workers -- they are family.
"We've grown together; we've gone through a lot," said Jones.
"We spend eight or nine hours here a day...this is our home," said Hulst. "We've become a family. We have dinners together. We go to our children's birthday parties."
That's why they say they were sad to hear the department would be shut down.
"It's like your family being split up," said Hulst.
They are hoping the merger will give them the ability to stay together, and help their family grow even more.
"We could train together and become a big happy family, just like we are now," said Hulst.
Jones also said that the potential merger would help out citizens in the county by giving them better ISO ratings, and therefore, less home insurance costs, faster response times and more resources.
If the merger is approved, people in some fire districts could see an increase of zero to 0.036 cents per $100 of assessed property tax value.
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