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Contract with fire department terminated, negotiations for new one begin

By WCTI Staff
Published On: Dec 24 2013 09:35:16 AM CST
Updated On: Oct 10 2013 04:07:47 PM CDT
HOLLY RIDGE, ONSLOW COUNTY -

The Holly Ridge Town council has voted to terminate its contract with the Holly Ridge Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department and adopted a new one -- but fire officials aren't fond of it.

The vote happened on Tuesday, Oct. 8. 

According to Fire Chief Brandon Longo,  one concern in the proposed contract is the town council wanting the fire department to turnover all assets to the town of Holly Ridge. Longo says the fire department aren't able to do that since Onslow County paid for the majority of their equipment.

Another issue Longo finds is the possibility of eliminating the part-time paid positions at the department. That's something Holly Ridge resident Mary Rhodes also finds concerning.

"There are some volunteers and there are some paid/salary, which if they were to do away with some of them, we might could survive, but I still think we need their help," Rhodes said.

The town and fire department have 180 days to compromise on a contract they both agree upon. If no deal is met, the town won't have fire coverage and would rely on surrounding districts to respond.

Onslow County Emergency Services Director Norman Bryson says that could mean more money out of residents' pockets, because this would cause the town's ISO rating to jump from a class 7 to a class 10. He says this would mean residents' homeowners insurance premiums will jump at least 30 percent, depending on the insurance provider. This would only affect residents who live within the town limits.

"We just have to suffer the consequences or be on the street," said Linwood Rhodes, Mary's husband. "Whatever. You can't pay for so much when you're on fixed income."

Both town and fire officials believe they'll reach an agreement, and this won't go that far.

The Holly Ridge Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department won't close in the meantime.

"If they call for help, we're still coming," Longo said. "There is that 180-day window that we have to work with, but I feel that we will reach an agreement before any of that ever comes into light."

The department also continues to have an active contract with Onslow County.

The two sides hope to schedule a meeting in the coming weeks.