01/04/09 — Commission to discuss fire districts

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Commission to discuss fire districts

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 4, 2009 2:00 AM

The fate of Cherry Hospital and freeing up the use of 911 fees are among the issues that Wayne County commissioners hope to bring to the table when the N.C. Association of County Commissioners holds its Legislative Goals Conference later this month in Raleigh.

Commissioners on Tuesday are expected to appoint a legislative liaison for the 2009-10 biennium. Their meeting gets under way with a briefing session at 8 a.m. followed by the meeting at 9 a.m. in the commissioners' meeting room on the fourth floor of the courthouse annex.

In other business, the board will consider recommendations regarding the updating of the county's fire protection district maps.

The legislative conference will be held Jan. 15-16 at the Sheraton Raleigh. The liaisons will meet Jan. 15.

"Several board members are very concerned about Cherry Hospital," County Manager Lee Smith said. "It means a lot to the community and if we were to lose the hospital it would have a major impact on our workforce."

The hospital has been under fire in recent months because of patient abuse, including one death. It has lost federal funding because of the problems and its administrator has resigned.

As for the 911 fees, Smith said the county wants the state to allow the revenues to be utilized for a wider variety of uses such as the county's $10 million communications system.

Smith said that the association's legislative agenda is weighted toward revenue sources including a real estate transfer fee.

Such a fee is still a property tax, Smith said.

"It could and can deter development," he said. "We don't want to do that, we want to attract development."

According to the association Web site, its priority goal will be to seek legislation "to allow all counties to enact by resolution any or all revenue options from among those that have been authorized for any county, including local option sales taxes, impact taxes, real estate transfer taxes and prepared food taxes, and to preserve the existing local revenue base."

The goals will be considered and voted on by the association's full membership during the conference.

In a related issue, commissioners will hold a work session on legislative goals and issues.

In other business Tuesday, commissioners will discuss changes in the fire district maps that were recommended by the Office of State Fire Marshal.

The county has used geographic information system mapping and property lines to eliminate the use of written description of each district's boundaries.

In a letter to Smith, Wayne County Fire Marshal Bryan Taylor said it also would correct any overlaps in the districts and would eliminate any areas in the county not covered by a fire protection map.

Taylor added that the county has received state approval to proceed with maps and that the maps comply with the state's six-mile and five-mile districts.

The six-mile districts on the map are Dudley, Elroy, Eureka, Northern Wayne, Grantham, Indian Springs, Jordans Chapel, Little River, Mar-Mac, Waylin, New Hope, Oakland, Rosewood, Smith Chapel, Thoroughfare and Moseley Hall (overlap from LaGrange in Lenoir County).

The five-mile districts are Antioch, Arrington, Belfast, East Wayne, Faro, Nahunta, Patetown, Pleasant Grove, Pinewood, Polly Watson, Pricetown, Saulston, Seven Springs and Boon Hill (overlap from Johnston County).