BEAUFORT — The Carteret County Board of Commissioners approved a merger of the Davis and Down East fire districts to take effect at the beginning of October.
The unanimous decision came during the board’s regular monthly meeting held Monday evening at the administration building in Beaufort. County Emergency Services Director Stephen Rea introduced the matter to the board and the public.
Mr. Rea said the Davis Volunteer Fire Department, which has its station at 595 Highway 70, failed an inspection by the Office of the State Fire Marshal in July due to lack of adequate staffing at the department. The OSFM regularly inspects departments and assigns insurance ratings based on a number of factors, including staffing levels, with the lower the number, the better the rating.
A better rating translates to lower insurance premiums for homeowners within the fire district.
Due to the failed inspection, the Davis VFD, which currently has a Class 7 rating, was set to revert to a Class 10 later this month, meaning no coverage for the fire district. In a memo to county commissioners, the Davis Volunteer Fire Department Board of Directors said it was given the option to merge with another department rather than accept the new rating.
“Back in July, Davis was reinspected by the Office of the State Fire Marshal, they did not pass their inspection so they voluntarily went to Down East for a merger,” Mr. Rea said.
By merging with the Down East fire district, which has a Class 5 fire rating, the former Davis district will also adopt the Class 5 rating. The tax rate for the former Davis district will remain unchanged.
As part of the merger, the Davis Volunteer Fire Department will become part of the Down East Fire Department.
“Those guys stepped up to do the right thing to help Davis out, and I think it’s a great thing, I think it will be awesome for Down East,” Commissioner Robin Comer said Monday.
Other commissioners also expressed support for the move, especially considering the positive effect it will have on insurance premiums for residents of the former Davis district.
“It’s kind of a no-brainer,” Commissioner Ed Wheatly said of the decision to merge the districts.
Commissioner Chris Chadwick, who represents Down East, amongst other areas, on the county board, said the area is experiencing population loss in recent years, making it difficult to attract and retain firefighters and other emergency personnel. He asked Mr. Rea to consider merging the Stacy fire district with Down East, as well, as it sits in between Down East and the former Davis district and currently has a Class 9S fire rating.
“They all struggle with retention of firemen because … they’re losing people Down East, the younger crowd just don’t get involved like they did at one time,” Mr. Chadwick said.
The commissioners adopted a resolution approving a new map for the Down East fire district, along with an updated contract with the department. The merger becomes effective Thursday, Oct. 1.
Contact Elise Clouser at email@example.com; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.