Jul 082011

An Updated County Fire District Map Will Help Save PVFD
By Walker Davidson

The Providence Volunteer Fire Department (PVFD) station is not in compliance with safety regulations regarding the overnight stay of fire fighters. PVFD estimates it will cost $450,000 to make the building compliant. Until PVFD gets funding for the improvements, fire fighters will not be allowed to stay at the station overnight. This will lead to longer response times to emergency calls during the overnight hours in the Weddington area.

For many people this increase in response time is unacceptable. These people understand the consequences of help arriving too late on a 911 call. Judy Johnston is one of these people.

Judy Johnston lives in Weddington. Her son is a volunteer firefighter at PVFD. After the Weddington town council denied PVFD its request for $450,000 for the building improvements, Judy began a campaign to inform citizens of the situation. She has talked with a lot of people, created a web site (saveprovidencevfd.org), and distributed literature.

I can appreciate Judy’s frustration with the town council. The town council has accumulated $2.5 million over the years with no long term plans for the use of the excess funds. The council recently approved $20,000 for a festival and spent $200,000 on decorative streetlights. Given these other spending items, it is difficult for some to accept the council’s decision regarding the $450,000.

However, even if the town council approved the $450,000, that action alone would not address the main problem. PVFD does not generate enough fire fee revenue to pay its annual operating expenses. The town council cannot fix the problem.

The county is the taxing authority for the fire districts.

Some people feel that a merger between PVFD and Wesley Chapel Volunteer Fire Department (WCVFD) would solve the funding problem. While this seems like an easy solution, the path of least resistance often leads to a dead end. The merger will effectively wipe out PVFD. All control of the station would reside with the board of the WCVFD. I prefer to have people who live in Weddington serving on the board that controls fire service for the people of Weddington. I feel confident having Weddington citizens such as Jack Parks, Heather Perryman, Scott Robinson, and Ken Evans on the board at PVFD. I would like to see Judy Johnston on the board one day.

The funding problem at PVFD may be alleviated by an update to the county fire district map. The fire district map is out of date and inefficient. The map should be updated based on response times. School district maps and voting district maps are updated periodically as the county changes. The county fire district map should follow the same process.

Weddington is one area of the county that would benefit from an updated map. There are many neighborhoods in Weddington that should be assigned to PVFD. The Williamsburg neighborhood is one of the most obvious.

Williamsburg is in the WCVFD district despite the fact that it is much closer to PVFD. The property owners in Williamsburg pay taxes to WCVFD. When a 911 call comes in from Williamsburg here is what happens. If it is a call for a fire, both PVFD and WCVFD will respond. Odds are that PVFD will arrive first. If it is a medical call, for some reason that I don’t understand, PVFD is NOT allowed to respond. Only WCVFD is allowed to respond. This protocol will likely result in a longer response time than is necessary.

The same situation applies to the following neighborhoods: Beulah Oaks, Waybridge, Weddington Heritage, Greystone, Weddington Downs, Gatewood, and Hadley Park.

An updated map will improve response times in the Weddington area, may allow PVFD to collect enough tax revenue to pay its annual operating expenses, and allow the citizens of Weddington to maintain control of PVFD. Citizens who want to save PVFD should ask Union County Fire Commissioner Jonathan Thomas to take action to update the county fire district map.


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