01/21/10 660 W - + 4 - 10 Wake County Fire Commission Meeting Highlights, January 21

The big news from tonight's Wake County Fire Commission meeting was their vote to suspend the fire station closure process. Recall that Western Wake, Wake-New Hope, Bay Leaf, and Falls fire stations were undergoing evaluation, to see if contracted city protection would provide equal or cheaper cost, but at the same or higher level of service.

Tonight, the county fire marshal reported that the city's cost for contracted protection of those station areas was higher than the county's cost. Specific numbers were not provided, and in fact no action was requested from the group by the fire marshal. After extensive discussion and based on the verbal information about the numbers, the commission approved a two-part motion. First, suspend the closure process. Second, begin evaluating county fire resources-- stations, staffing, apparatus, etc.-- on a county-wide basis.

Points made and issues raised during the above discussion included the length of time that the closure process had been taking (nearly six years), the two earlier studies made that suggested station closures in 1993 and 2004, the need for possible improvements and added resources to the four aforementioned stations, and the city's limitations with regard to protecting areas without hydrants. The Falls/Wake Forest merger was also mentioned, and a status requested. That initiative is on hold, or was on hold until the station closure process concluded.

Other highlights of the meeting included:

A brief presentation by the 200 Club of Wake County, a non-profit organization composed of citizens supporting public safety officers, and providing financial assistance to families that suffer a loss of same. Their representative provided posters for display in fire stations.

A longer presentation on Incident Management Teams, being developed as an multi-agency resource available to assist at major incidents. The concept is a low-cost/no-cost initiative that will utilize volunteers from fire-rescue, EMS, law enforcement, emergency management, and municipal offices. They'll attend training, and be available on-call for major incidents. For roles and functions such as logistics, planning, finance, public information, and safety.

During the IMT presentation, the speaker noted that Wake County is approaching the population size of Mecklenburg County, and is poised to pass them. That would make Wake the largest by population in the state.

The Facilities Committee presented their regular update, which included a discussion on the impact of the Little River Reservoir project on response times. They reviewed maps and data for Hopkins, Zebulon, Wendell Station 2, and Rolesville, and found that closing Fowler, Lizard Lick, and Riley Hill roads would significantly increase response times to the areas east of the proposed reservoir. For example, closing Fowler Road would raise the Hopkins response times by 248%. Next steps include involving making the Army Corps of Engineers aware of this impact, and working toward maintaining the same level of service. Through, say, bridges, or construction of a new fire station in affected areas. Construction of the reservoir starts in 2016.

Discussion at length about contingency funds for fire departments, and an approximately $16,000 per department that was withheld by the Commission's vote at the start of the budget year. The context was a contingency fund request from Eastern Wake, to be applied toward insurance premiums. The first motion was made to distribute that $16,000 to each department, as each had valid needs for contingency funds. Motion not passed. The second motion was made to provide the request funds to Eastern Wake, about $11,000. Motion carried.

The annual election of the Fire Commission Chair and Vice Chair were held. The appointees by vote were Lucius Jones as Chair, and Robert Stagg as Vice Chair.

The request was made that meeting agendas be provided one week prior, instead of a couple days. Also, that handouts be made available prior to the meeting. And that committees provide greater communication to fire chiefs, such as the Facilities Committee and their excellent communication therein.

Edits and corrections are welcome. Copies of handouts to be provided after I receive soft copies of same.

Where are the names, you ask? The omission of particular people— most of the time— is intentional, and intended to give folks a break from being indexed on Google. Is that the right thing to do? Haven’t thought about it lately, I’ve just been doing it that way. If readers think the other way is better, speak up! We can name names.
Legeros - 01/21/10 - 23:57

Does the discussion of county wide fire resources involve having all county stations running under one unified chain of command or is the discussion separate for each department? Also Any chance of addidng or re-opening county stations at this point?
Zippity - 01/22/10 - 00:23

The discussion of countywide resources was in the context of “instead of looking at this department’s needs, and that department’s needs, let’s look at the county’s needs a whole.” And references were made to such issues as “maybe we’ll see that some stations need to be moved.” That’s pretty close to the exact language used. However, the discussion was minimal, and it really just served as a starting point for the motion that passed. Just a first step, or the support of a first step.
Legeros - 01/22/10 - 08:14

I’m confused. The motion to give $16,000 to each department was not passed, yet the one to give Eastern Wake $11,000 was passed? Maybe Im missing the whole point, but this just doesn’t make sense. Can someone clarify?
H20 - 01/22/10 - 09:17

I think they decided to give EW the money because (speculating) they actually requested it. I could be very wrong, but from the context of the info given, that sounds like what the deal was. I think the commission may just not want to give out $16K to each department, since it’s a contingency fund, unless they have requested it. It sounds like their way of keeping money in the fund so that if it’s not requested by a certain department they can keep it and move it to a different place if it’s not used by the end of the FY.

Again, I may be terribly wrong, but that’s what I get out of the given information, and I’m only speculating.
M.A.D. - 01/22/10 - 09:47

How can Eastern Wake possibly need more money, they have a ridiculously large budget as is, $1.5million for 1 station that is in operation and 1 that just sits there.
Are you kidding me? - 01/22/10 - 10:01

Seeing budgets presented last night only fortifies by believe that this Fire Commission has NOT ONE IDEA how to support and LEAD this county. 1.5 million for Eastern Wake, 1.(?) million for Wendell… GOOD GRIEF!!!!! any idea which area runs the commission.
Yeah No kidding - 01/22/10 - 12:24

Let’s see bios of each commission member and where they’re from…..
Silver - 01/22/10 - 15:26

Sitting there last night, as a citizen, really opened my eyes to a HUGE load of BS. No wonder the fire service is so dysfunctional in this county, the group, or least half of them, HAVE NO FREAKING CLUE!! It was both disturbingly comical and down right disappointing to see how things are “run” around here. All I can say is WOW!!!!
Wayne - 01/22/10 - 18:02

It was sickening to see good motions and discussions shot down by some people that don’t even know how their own system works, much less trying to improve upon it. Either way…stay safe out there folks!
Wayne - 01/22/10 - 18:04

Can you give some examples, Wayne? What did we miss?
Examples - 01/22/10 - 18:11

It ain’t exactly pretty, but it’s what we got, goes the ZZ Top lyric, as best I rememeber. That’s the fire commission, a combination of citizens, officials, and fire department representatives. A diversity of experience, perspectives, passions, and opinions. Should the county fire service be governed exclusively by a subset of above? Don’t know. In its present state, the country fire service is not consolidated, and thus perhaps cannot be governed by any better of a body. But I am just an insider observer.
Legeros - 01/22/10 - 18:18

After last night it is very apparent the “concept” of the Fire Commission is indeed now outdated and really broken. It has served its purpose. There still remains one strength that has not been fully tapped… Hopefully there is more to come… For now, support your chief and your department 120%.
A.C. Rich - 01/22/10 - 18:19

You are right, the Fire Commission is indeed broken and outdated. The biggest problem that I recognized was that there are WAY TOO many civilian/politician positions on this commission. It is obvious in everything, from the double talking that some do to the lack of how the system is currently. It was disappointing and frustrating to the people out vote the fire service people everytime.


President Price (WCFFA)makes motion to drop all discussion of station closures after Mr Echevarria provides information that to close the stations would cost more (although he didn’t have the numbers with him) and other members of the commission ( Myrick and Coble) still want more information and wanted to table the vote or have Pres. Price reword it to “Suspend” discussions of station closures.

Chief Parker makes motion to divide the contingency money held back from the county depts at the beginning of the budget year, after the county budget rep tells them that he felt the money would not be needed… again Myrick and Coble lead the way to shoot it down and say each chief needs to come ask for what money they need and have the commission vote on each one separately. They were several asinine comments made that showed that they had no idea about the current way things are done.

Honestly, the biggest thing I learned last night while attending this meeting (used loosely) was that it’s time to disband the Fire Commission. It’s time to form some kind of centralized organization of ONLY fire service personnel from all ranks, not just chiefs. After that, let them be the TRUE oversight for fire service delivery for the county.

Well off of the soapbox…stay low and go folks.
Wayne - 01/22/10 - 19:54

Wayne. Was this your first meeting?
A.C. Rich - 01/22/10 - 20:40

It was my first meeting and i will have to say it was entertaining to say the least. MAD above, it was my understanding that the 16,100 per department was not from a contingency fund but money that was request for items at budget time last year but budget committee decided to hold its line and not increase anyones budget. This money was what would be left over and commission was supposed to have guidelines as to how departments could request the funds. I plan on attending more in the future. I do not have a dog in the fight on station closures, The number I heard last night that it would cost City to provide protection to Falls area seems far off to me, Approx 300,000 per square mile. I don’t know where that comes from but seems extremely high.

Apex Batt Chief - 01/22/10 - 22:23

Hopefully “we” can come together to work as a group and collectively assist in the repair of the system. Maybe a “re-organization” of sorts is needed. I do not believe the current constructs will disappear, but the way it is managed can change or maybe even evolve. In my opinion, any centralized organization (regardless of makeup or consistency) will be subject to the same behaviors that are now exhibited. Maybe the true answer is to fix what we have as the “old ways” and approaches are expended. I guess what’s truly appropriate and needed now is completely based on perspective.
A.C. Rich - 01/22/10 - 23:21

Perhaps replace the current Wake County Fire Commission members with the Wake County FF Association members.
Problem solved! - 01/22/10 - 23:40

How about a formal application process, rather than the defunct selection system which exists now?
Silver - 01/23/10 - 00:13

There is a formal application process for the five citizen seats on the commission, I believe. They complete an application available on the county web site. The Board of Commissioners makes the appointment, though obviously personal connections are going to help in that regard. The more board members who know of an applicant, their background, and their value to the person voting to them, the more likely they’ll presumably win the appointment.

The citizen appointments are lifetime, aren’t they? Until the person resigns or dies?

The structure of the commission is listed here, http://www.wakegov.com/fire/commission/d..

1 – Board of Commissioners member, appointed by the Board of Commissioners
4 – Primary fire service planning and service region reps, each elected by their geographic region, I believe. Northern, southern, eastern, western.
4 – Alternate fire service planning and service region reps.
1 – President of the Wake County Firefighters Association. The president is elected annually in that organization.
5 – Public consumers, e.g., citizens, appointed by the Board of Commissioners
_ – County staff, who are non-voting
_ – Municipal reps, from municipalities participating in the Fire Protection Service District, one seat per participating municipality. Looking at this list, http://www.wakegov.com/fire/commission/m.., there appears to be only one, from the town of Wendell.

The current membership, again, is listed here: http://www.wakegov.com/fire/commission/m..

Though that list appears a bit out of date.
Legeros - 01/23/10 - 08:52

The fire commission appointments are for two years and they are made in the Fall (usually October). When terms reach expiration, the sitting members are asked if they wish to continue or resign, so re-appointment to the commission is common. Speaking for the N. Region, we rotate membership every two years as needed and agreed upon by the N. Region chiefs. The web info on current membership is incorrect. The current N. Region representation is Freddy Lynn as the primary and I am the alternate.
A.C. Rich - 01/23/10 - 09:43

D“oh. Duh. I knew that. Two year appointments. It’s probably on that web page, too.
Legeros - 01/23/10 - 09:51

Also, the above board membership lists both primary and alterate reps. However, only one sits at a time. Thus, at a given meeting, there are a max of 1 commissioner, 4 fire service reps, 1 WCFA president, 5 public consumers, 1 municipal rep, and county staff, who don’t vote. Twelve voting members max.
Legeros - 01/23/10 - 13:45

I agree with Silver. Name them! I haven’t attended any of the meetings, but have followed discussions and read information/minutes from previous. With that caveat-the commission appears more political-than effective. There appears to be a dearth of ability-or willingness- to effectively discuss, define, or solve any issues. Witness the ongoing closure process-completely ineffective. “Suspend the process”, based on purely anecdotal evidence??? Unbelievable. Small wonder so many -as indicated by months of discussion here-view the commission with such disdain.
Goose - 01/23/10 - 22:20

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