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Town Council votes to fire Providence VFD

Published on April 17, 2015



TO DONATE BY CHECK:  Make Check payable to: Providence VFD and mark your check as a donation.  Bring by the fire department and ask for a receipt from whomever you give the check OR mail your check to: Providence VFD, 5025 Hemby Road, Weddington, 28104, Attn: Steve Carow.

Monday night, April 13, 2015, Weddington Mayor Deter and town council (excluding Councilwoman Pam Hadley) surprised us and voted to cancel the contract with Providence VFD and initiate a contract with Wesley Chapel for your fire protection.  Councilwoman Hadley had no prior knowledge that this action was going to be presented and it was not in her packet for the meeting.  Below are some of the points made by the Mayor in an attempt to paint an ugly picture of Providence VFD as being unstable, using conjecture, assumptions and manipulated facts.

Your family MAY BE AT RISK with higher homeowners insurance costs and weaker fire and EMT coverage.  Personnel is the largest expense for Providence.  We may be forced to reduce the number of first responders to balance the level of service to incoming appropriations from the Town!!    Wesley Chapel VFD does not currently operate using the same personnel operations model.  If they become the fire service provider for Weddington it would raise their personnel expenses to maintain 24/7/365 coverage with 4 CERTIFIED firefighters IN THE STATION.  It is unlikely that they will do this for just Weddington and not for the rest of their fire district without additional charges to Weddington.  Up to this point the town has refused to raise taxes to meet the increase in fire service cost.  It appears Weddington is willing to pass the higher cost and risk to residents so Council can claim no tax increase.  

- 2002 Providence fund balance was $750,000.   TRUE

Providence has drawn it down over the years at the request of prior town councils.  The town said they would help Providence after we first drew down our reserve.  We drew it down to $200,000 and the town held our budget flat which necessitated the need to reduce reserves even further.

- Wesley Chapel $600,000 in checking and Savings?   NOT SURE

It is unknown what WC has in the bank.  What is known is they have over $5 million in debt.

- 2008-2012 Mayor states Weddington gave Providence over $1M.  TRUE

IN return Weddington received a high level of staffing with 4 certified members ready to respond 24/7/365.  We receive very little funding from Union County.  Last year we received only $33,000 from Union County and that was up from the previous year.

- 2013 Mayor said Providence was unable to get a loan     FALSE

Providence was looking at getting a loan and Weddington said that they would pay for the renovations at the station.  Weddington had an excess of reserve funds that they needed to spend down and would be willing to help Providence for Providence helping Weddington over the years.  A loan was never applied for because former Mayor Walker Davidson wanted the citizens of Weddington to take ownership of the land and building.

- Mayor said in January 2015 Providence VFD requested payments on a quarterly basis.   FALSE

Councilman Don Titherington actually suggested this in November of 2014.  Providence VFD said we would be willing to take quarterly payments instead of monthly as the town requested.

- February 2015 Providence summited a flat budget.    TRUE

Providence VFD was told by the town to keep our budget flat for the 2013-14 budget.  In 2014-15 budget Providence requested an increase and in November (5 months into the budget) The mayor and majority of council told us would not receive any increase in funding.

- Mayor states that Providence VFD rejected merger talks with Wesley Chapel.      FALSE

Providence VFD  has always been willing to look at anything that we can do to improve service and safety to the community.  Providence VFD had set a realistic time line for merger talks and had provided Wesley Chapel VFD all information they requested.  Wesley Chapel VFD only provided limited information which Providence VFD requested.  When asked for more information, our request was denied or ignored.  Wesley Chapel VFD did not respond to invitations to schedule future meetings.

- Mike Smith said in 2010 there was a deception for a merger.     TRUE

Wesley Chapel would not provide any auditied and verified financials to Providence VFD as requested.  What Providence did receive was accompanied by a letter from Wesley Chapels’ accountant stating that financial information provided was missing “substantially all of the disclosures ordinarily included in financial statements”.   Providence VFD had asked questions for clarification on this and to date has never received a response.

- Mike Smith said in 2014 the town had a fire study done.   TRUE

Weddington hired McGrath to do a fire study.  On September 16th at 10:30 Jack Parks and Kenny Schott, Fire Chief at Providence, met with Tim McGrath at the station.  One of the options to solve the issue of funding was to increase taxes. Interestingly, also stated directly from the fire study “Of the addition concern is that breaking the FSA with Providence would effectively result in their demise because of a lack of service area: an undesirable situation which was likely of such concern during past consolidation negotiations that it spurred the effort to create the municipal fire fire district of today.  Likewise, it would be impossible to accomplish the steps involved in moving to this option without it becoming public knowledge.”

Tim told Jack Parks and Kenny Schott that there was and faction of the Town Council that was willing to do anything and everything to get rid of Providence VFD and was willing to pay the $750,000 penalty if necessary, to make it happen.  When Tim was asked why, he stated that they (this faction of council) just wanted Providence VFD gone and did not have a reason other than to give everything to Wesley Chapel VFD. Barbara Harrison said she wanted “a better fire department for western union county not just Weddington”.  As a representative of Weddington, shouldn’t Weddington be her focus, not the greater area of western union county?   Did she confer with other municipalities about the impact this action will have on their service?  Providence has the best ISO rating (a 4) of all the county VFD’s.  How is moving backwards getting better? Mayor Deter said he wants caps on budget increases.  Weddington has not increased Providence budget since 2012-2013.  With only Wesley Chapel VFD involved in fire service for the town, that eliminates any negotiating position with WCVFD.  WCVFD will be the only option no matter what increases they demand.

- Mayor stated that there was a savings of over $220,000.   FALSE

If there were savings why won’t he produce the savings?  The only way to have savings is to cut staff.  Providence is the ONLY department in Weddington that can guarantee that we have 4 certified members at the station 24/7/365.

- Mayor says that “…numbers don’t lie”.

Budgets and numbers can always be finagled to fit an objective.  Councilwoman Pam Hadley has numbers which differ from those the mayor presented.  Her numbers show no adverse effect to Weddington until 2020 and if taxes were increased by a penny for fire service the town would continue to stay in the black even through 2020. In February the Mayor sent out a letter stating the town would keep 4 certified members at the Providence station 24/7/365.  Then Monday night, April 13, 2015, he said he did not care how they staffed the station.  He said it would be up to the fire department (WCVFD) to figure out how they would staff it and use the money.  Mayor refused to acknowledge or send out the letter drafted by Jack Parks, President of the Board of Directors at Providence VFD warning Mayor Deter and council of the potential risks to rush the process. The Mayor said the important thing to remember is the savings.   Yet he has not produced any real documentation showing where the savings would come.  Mayor said he would place a cap of $699K on the amount of funding they pay WCVFD.  No requirements for “level of service” would be in contract with Wesley Chapel.

- Pam Hadley stated that the town and this country have been underfunding the fire department for years.   TRUE Mike Smith stated the town currently only has the option to pay for 24/7 coverage.  This is what you, the residents, have requested and deserve.  He is taking this from you.

- Mayor stated that when the Fire Service District was formed that the town chose Providence and didn’t give the option to Wesley Chapel.   TRUE

Providence VFD is centrally located in Weddington which is why Providence VFD was chosen as the primary fire department for the fire service municipality.  Wesley Chapel VFD could not cover the town with the two stations they have.  The Fire Service District is set up on a 5 mile district and Providence VFD is the only department that can do this. Barbara wants benchmarks.  Providence VFD HAS benchmarks and has continued to achieve and surpass them on a shoestring budget.  Again, Providence VFD has the best ISO rating of 4 in the County even as it operates off of a subpar budget.

- Mayor states the town will run out of money in 3.5 years.    FALSE

- In January the Mayor stated in 2021 the town would be broke.   FALSE

The fact is that the town will still have money and still be healthy in 2021.  Without raising taxes which many of you have said to do, the town will be $21 dollars below there reserve limit that they would like to keep at the current pace.  That is without any growth.

- Councilwoman Barbara Harrison stated that prior to 2012 Providence made up only 30% of the Weddington budget.     TRUE That was due to the fact that Providence was continuing to work off it’s reserve fund as asked to by prior Weddington council.  Also prior to 2012 was prior to the Fire Service District that guaranteed you would receive help from the closest station in Weddington.

Please listen to the audio from 04-13-15 Town Council meeting, concerning fire service in Weddington. The statements from above are just some of the mistruths of what was mentioned Monday night, April 13, 2015.  Also PLEASE email and call each member of your council, the county commissioners, and the county fire marshal.  Let EVERYONE know how you feel about what Mayor Deter and council is trying to do with your safety.  And let them know you do not appreciate being ignored and lied to.

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