County considers Stacy, Down East fire merger

The Stacy Volunteer Fire Department sits at 1442 Highway 70. The Carteret County Board of Commissioners is looking into merging the department with the Down East Fire Department. (Elise Clouser)

BEAUFORT — On the heels of a merger of the Davis and Down East fire departments, the Carteret County Board of Commissioners is considering the possibility of merging the Stacy Volunteer Fire Department with Down East, as well.

The topic came up during the board of commissioners’ meeting Monday evening when County Emergency Services Director Stephen Rea informed the board the Stacy department had defaulted on its contract with the county. He explained the department purchased fuel tanks that hadn’t been budgeted without first going to the County Fire/EMS Commission, as required, to get a recommendation for approval of the purchase, resulting in the default.  

In an email to the fire/EMS commission dated Oct. 21, after the fuel tanks had already been reportedly purchased and delivered, Stacy VFD Treasurer Dan Bartolini said it was recommended by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and he requested $12,000 in reserve funds for the project, including $6,004 for the cost of the tanks and an additional $6,000 for construction of a concrete platform to hold the tanks.

“This project will ensure the Stacy Fire Department will have diesel and gasoline supply in the event of a prolonged power outage caused by hurricane or natural disaster,” Mr. Bartolini wrote. “The project will also be an emergency fuel option for our mutual aid departments during a state of emergency period when extended power outages occur or flooding prevents flow of fuel supply to the area.”

Commissioner Ed Wheatly, however, called the purchase a “waste of money,” saying the location where the tanks are to be installed flooded during previous storms, defeating the purpose of the project.

“It really brought to the forefront the mistakes and the improper planning that’s going into this,” he said. “…It’s kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

The discussion of the possible merger was not on the agenda, and no member of the Stacy department gave comment during the meeting.

Mr. Rea reminded commissioners Stacy VFD has an ISO rating of 9S, the worst rating a department can achieve before it’s considered non-functional. The Office of the State Fire Marshal periodically inspects departments and assigns numbers, known as an ISO rating, based on factors such as staffing levels and access to a water source. Higher ratings translate to higher homeowners’ insurance premiums for residents living within the district.   

The improper tank purchase, combined with Stacy’s poor ISO rating, led county commissioners Monday to make a motion directing Mr. Rea to begin investigating a possible merger of the Stacy VFD with the Down East Fire Department, which has an ISO 5 rating.

The move would follow a similar one made earlier this year when the county merged the Davis Volunteer Fire Department, which failed its OSFM inspection and was set to drop to an ISO 10 rating, with the Down East department. At the time, commissioners talked about possibly merging Stacy, as well, because it is located between the former Davis district and Down East.

“By bringing Stacy in, you would have (fire departments) from Davis to Atlantic all under the same umbrella, which would bring each one of those stations to a 5 (ISO rating),” Mr. Wheatly said this month. “It is a total win-win.”

Commissioner Chris Chadwick said Monday homeowners in the Davis district have already seen savings on their insurance premiums as a result of the merger, and he supported doing the same for Stacy residents.

“I just think it’s the smart thing to do for the citizens of Stacy,” he said.

Mr. Rea is expected to return to county commissioners with an update on the merger at the board’s next meeting scheduled for Monday, Dec. 7.   

 

Contact Elise Clouser at elise@thenewstimes.com; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.

(4) comments

Osprey

Additional information regarding the fuel tanks:

The fuel tanks were to be placed on a 5 ft elevated concrete platform 3 + ft. above all previous flood levels. The platform would include a retaining basin 3 times the volume of the tanks. The Carteret County Planning Dept made a site visit and gave OK to proceed with the project.

The fuel tanks were recommended by both FEMA and Fire Marshall in 2019 after Hurricane Florence.

Funding of the project was from FEMA reimbursement of insurance deductible from Hurricane Florence.

Hammerit

Ok so as of this post let point out a few things wrong here Chris Chadwick nor Eddy bo Wheatly are insurance adjusters or advisers and have no legal grounds to say who will or who will not save money and insurance secondly as to the prior post or comment the insurance from FEMA payback was how the tanks were purchased therefore not required to go through the county also makes This a legal Purchase and not putting the Stacy fire DepartmentIn any form of breach contract but yet everybody seems to overlook the illegal comment statements and inappropriate Non-factual But yet misleading statements from Chris Chadwick And Edd Wheatley But yet want to focus on some fuel tanks that were legally purchased but also can be refunded if the county is deemed necessary so for a station to run on a budget of 26,000 a year since the mid-80s and successfully do it and only have one problem with the county looking at the fuel tanks witch was Recommended by the fire marshal and fema so the board of Stacy Fire deemed it to be a good investment to help and to be able to provide better service to the community of Stacy to have one hot head lying misleading Chris Chadwick try and make the merge happen the county meeting was live and can be shown at any time where they call Stacy fire Department a fire department and turn around and in the same breath say Stacy Fire Department is not a fire department Stacy Fire Department has been open since the 80 and have done very well considering the run on a budget lest then most people make in a year all documents are available and are not hidden but yet because Chris Chadwick is breaking a federal law advising people that they will save 500 to 800 dollars a year in insurance we are all going to just say merge let’s point out yet again a law was broken we over look it Stacy Fire makes a legal purchase and they cry it’s a breach of contract now merge I think we really need to look at this county and who the heck is running it And leave Stacy Fire Department a lone

guest49

It is my under standing that a 9s iso rating is not bad for a rural fire department. And when a fire department goes fails there iso inspection and are put in a 10 s rating that means that community has not fire service and another fire department has to take over their fire protection, The insurance companies are notified of this . Since the Commissioners meeting and Commissioner Chadwick stating that people are receiving checks from the insurance companies for a lower iso rating, I was wondering how many people have actually received checks and how much. Are they as much as Commissioner Chadwick reported?

Osprey

Stacy VFD has passed state inspections and is in good standing with the State Fire Marshall and Department of Insurance. The department is debt free and has updated PPE and fire equipment. Stacy Fire Department has operated on the lowest budget of all county departments for years. Stacy VFD receives just under $30000 per year from the ad valorem tax and sales tax combined. With that the department maintains a building, 3 trucks and provides fire service for its service area, equipment and PPE for 15 active volunteers. The fuel tanks was the first and only straw the Commissioner Wheatley had in his hat. He could have phrased his opinion as such rather than last straw. The contract breach is being used as an excuse to force a takeover of the department.

Davis VFD failed their inspection earlier this year. Davis had the option to work towards passing inspection or consolidate with another department. They chose to merge. Same goes for Sealevel Fire Department several years ago. Sealevel had both personnel and financial troubles which is why the Downeast Fire Department was created, from the consolidation of Atlantic Fire Department and Sealevel Department. The state is scheduled to inspect Downeast FD now that Davis has been absorbed. The members of Stacy FD are open to consolidation discussion but would like to see if the new larger department can pass inspection to cover the larger district. There is no guarantee of that happening.

What the commissioners fail to mention is that no one has approached Stacy about merging. Everything has been done through back channels including adding the topic to the Commissioner meeting agenda as a last minute write in.

The members of Stacy VFD would have appreciated to to approached directly and front on to discuss the potential merger (takeover).

Welcome to the discussion.

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