To the editor:
I will admit that until recently that I was like most citizens of Scotland County and knew very little about fire departments and how they operated. However, three years ago the state of North Carolina changed the way they rated homeowners insurance from how close the home was to a fire hydrant to how close it was to a fire station. This caused insurance rates for people like myself to double in the blink of an eye, and they have increased each year since. Scotland County’s commissioners approved an increase in the fire tax with the promise of building two substations to help bring insurance premiums down for citizens living more than five miles from a fire station.
I started paying the increased fire tax because of this promise, and an increase in insurance while waiting for work to begin on these new substations. I found out there was a Scotland County Fire Commission that made proposals and recommendations to the Scotland County Commissioners for their approval, and the meetings were open to the public. A neighbor and I decided to attend these meetings to find out why we are paying the increased tax and nothing was nothing was being done as far as building these substations to lower our insurance. After the first meeting, we learned the first substation was to be built south of Laurinburg for the rural areas to the South Carolina state line and the Gibson areas on Leisure and Academy Road and learned the citizens of the municipalities don’t pay fire tax.
This is where the holdup is; the proposed site is on property owned by the city of Laurinburg, and most Fire Commissioners oppose this. They feel that once the building is built on city property, it will belong to the city and be paid for by the rural county taxpayers.
From information I viewed on the North Carolina Department of insurance website, requirements for a substation are: a building large enough to house a pumper truck and tanker if less than 80 percent. Additionally, it must be heated, handicap accessible and have restrooms. According to these requirements, the south end station only needs to house one pumper.
A fire commission building committee, after research, made a recommendation to build two identical substations at a cost of about $110,000 each for a standard 40 x 45 foot building. That seems to be why we are still waiting for insurance to go down in these areas because the Laurinburg Fire Chief wants a building larger than what was recommended by the Fire Commission building committee.
At the last Fire Commission meeting in January, a county employee, presented a proposal for a building to be built on that city property with the approval of our county manager that would cost over $200,000. At the same meeting, a landowner in the Gibson fire district offered to donate property to the county to build the south end station. This would give those residents a class protection 6 insurance rating, thereby, lowering their insurance premiums.
If the taxpaying citizens of rural Scotland County don’t wake up and start attending Fire Commission meetings or contacting their county commissioners, you will wake up one morning and your tax money will be used to build a full size fire station for the city of Laurinburg instead of the substation that was agreed upon with the blessing of some of our county leaders.