Leland Town Council unanimously voted not to renew its contract with Leland Volunteer Fire/Rescue Department after a special presentation Wednesday.
Town Manager David Hollis presented several alternatives to council members regarding changes to the town’s relationship with LVFRD.
The department was placed on probation this year amid concerns about response times and the number of firefighters responding to each call.
During a surprise state inspection over the summer, inspectors found four calls from 2015 when the department did not have the required four personnel responding to a fire alarm.
Chief John Grimes said two of the cases resulted from improper documentation by staff, and two were legitimate cases where they did not have the required personnel on hand.
The item recommended to council Wednesday was a merger of LVFRD and the town with the town funding new positions.
According to the presentation, this option would address staffing issues, eliminate contract concerns and improve fire protection services.
If selected, the merger would take between six and 18 months and costs would range between $134,000 and $1 million.
“A merger is the preferred option because Leland Fire Rescue has the operation in place right now,” Hollis said. “They are currently engaged in fire services. They’re engaged in EMS services. They know what they’re doing and they do it very well. Bringing that knowledge and those resources to the town is a very prudent and wise thing to do.”
However, LVFRD would have the right to refuse the merger. In that case, the town could decide to create its own fire department.
Grimes said during the public comment period he was not necessarily for or against the merger, but that merging would not automatically create new services, and the town has not expressed services leaders want but do not currently get from the department in the existing contract.
“We have provided a great service to the county,” Grimes said. “We had four calls where we had three people instead of four. 99.8 percent on any college exam – I couldn’t imagine a college student that would be upset that they made a 99.8. So we feel like we’re providing an outstanding service to the community. It’s just not being reported correctly. If it was reported correctly the community would find out that, and the fire department has not received a single call related to any of these complaints. Not one.”
Hollis said the next step will be to contact Grimes and work out what exactly a merger would entail.
The current contract will expire in June 2017.
Hollis said in the event LVFRD refuses the merger and the town creates its own department, LVFRD could continue to operate.
He said in that situation, there would be a “mutual aid agreement” between the two. If there were a major fire, both departments would respond.
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