ELLERBE – The Ellerbe Fire Department is hoping to get approval for a “new” standard by which charges for its fire abatement services are rendered.
“It’s just a better way to do it,” says Ellerbe Fire Chief Will Barber. “We are the only (fire) department that still operates that way.”
“That way” is the current policy, in which fire service provided beyond the town limits (but within six miles of Ellerbe) is only charged a fee if a structure is involved.
When the Richmond County Board of Commissioners in August authorized the East Rockingham Fire Department to create a service district (and subsequently charge fees in direct accordance to property value), Ellerbe became the only fire department in the county that does not adhere to such a standard.
The assessed value criterion would seem to constitute a more equitable approach.
“The city (through taxes) pays for fire service inside the town,” says Barber. “But we basically get nothing when the fire doesn’t involve a building of some type.”
It was noted that Barber estimates the yearly cost of fighting fires on the outskirts of Ellerbe to be about $35,000.
And since, according to the North Carolina Forestry Service, Richmond County has more wildfires, for its size, of any county in North Carolina, and Ellerbe is surrounded by heavily wooded areas, this estimate may be conservative.
Given the expense of firefighting (maintenance of fire engines, equipment trucks, fire station upkeep, etc.), even for a volunteer organization, any increase in the flow of revenue would be appreciated.
Barber also noted the benefit of better fire service for residents around Ellerbe – beyond the obvious – in that insurance premiums for homeowners could be lowered in direct relation to the improved rating of the fire service that is available.
The request has been approved by the Ellerbe Town Council and may be heard by the Richmond County commissioners as early as their December session.
No definitive fee scale has yet been decided, but East Rockingham charges 10 cents per $100 of assessed property value.