Fire Marshal Denies Slight

Southeastern Volunteer Cries Foul

WINNSBORO – As County Council heads toward the finish line in wrapping up the 2015-2016 budget, at least one volunteer firefighter is feeling like his station got the short end of the stick in fund allocations.

Southeastern Fire Department member Moses Bell, appealing to Council for additional equipment during the first public comment segment of Monday night’s Council meeting, said his station was getting passed over in favor of other stations and placed the blame for the slight at the feet of the County’s Fire Marshal, Tony Hill.

“The budget allows for other stations to have their service truck and brush truck to be replaced, while Southeastern does not have a brush truck at all,” Bell said, “and the service truck is an old ambulance that was discarded many many years ago by another emergency agency.”

Bell said he could not understand why Southeastern was getting passed over, until he was told recently that Hill’s position was, “if he had anything to do with it, Southeastern would not have gotten the truck they got many years ago.”

Bell asked Council if Hill’s alleged position represented a “bias” against Southeastern and urged Council to investigate.

Hill told The Voice Tuesday that Bell was mistaken and at no time did he ever do anything to prevent Southeastern from getting any equipment. Hill said Southeastern had received a new truck, the truck to which Bell was referring, only three of four years ago.

“I didn’t have control over who got trucks back then,” Hill said. “I didn’t do anything to keep anybody from getting a truck.”

Furthermore, Hill said, Southeastern is not short on firefighting gear.

“They’ve got every piece of equipment they need to do the job they need to do,” Hill said. “He (Bell) is the only one who ever complains out there. I never hear anything from the chief (Dwayne Bell), and I meet with him once a month. He doesn’t ever say anything to me.”

The Fire Board requested five new brush trucks at $29,081 each and four new service trucks at $49,567 each in the 2015-2016 budget. Interim County Administrator Milton Pope has recommended two of each in the budget that Monday night passed the second of its three readings. Pope said the County plans to purchase the remaining equipment in the next fiscal year.

During a May 7 work session, Pope told Council that the Feasterville station also wanted a new truck. Pope also said Council may want to revisit the County’s policy on how new equipment is distributed.

“I think the policy that we have, I think it’s a good one,” Pope told Council, “but I think we need to take a re-look at it, because sometimes with the fire stations they feel as though it’s just their turn. They don’t really care about the fire calls; they just want a new truck.”

And fire call volume, Pope told The Voice Tuesday, forms the basis of the County’s policy for allocating funds for new equipment.

Over a two-year period between 2013 and 2014, Southeastern ranked ninth out of 11 fire stations in average number of calls, responding to 32 in 2014 and just 17 in 2013. Feasterville ranked eighth, with 37 calls in 2014 and 19 calls in 2013. Topping the list is the Community Fire Department, which answered a total of 319 calls over the two-year period, followed by Ridgeway, which answered 256 in two years.

“I have not observed any intentional ‘slight’ to the (Southeastern) Station or certainly not to the citizens of the area,” Pope said. “You have a base line for suitable equipment for all stations and then you strategically replace equipment where the needs are greatest using the data from call volume as one of the major factors.”

Attempts to reach Southeastern Fire Chief Dwayne Bell for comment were not successful at press time.


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