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 firstname.lastname@example.org; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.