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A Tale of Two Fire Departments

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RALEIGH — The Wake County Commissioners passed a flat fire tax Monday that will provide rural fire stations with more money for resources.

The current rates vary from one district to another based on population. Most of the well-off departments like the Bay Leaf Volunteer Fire Department have lower tax rates because they have more residents to tax. The new plan will probably increase their rates to pay for more needy departments like the Stony Hill Volunteer Fire Department.

It is 2:00 p.m. and the Bay Leaf Volunteer Fire Department gets a call. The paid daytime crew responds in rapid fashion.

If the same call came to the Stony Hill Volunteer Fire Department, located three miles down the road, there would not be a paid crew to respond. The volunteers are working at other jobs, and the response time would be slower.

Monday, the Wake County Commissioners voted in a flat fire tax to help the rural fire districts afford daytime crews and better equipment.

"This board is responsible for almost 200,000 lives, and those homes, and those businesses in the rural area," County Commissioner Yvonne Brannon said. "That is our responsibility."

The new flat tax will enable Stony Hill to afford four paid fire fighters in the daytime, just like Bay Leaf.

The Chief of the Bay Leaf Fire Department said that the redistribution of funds does not take a number of facts into consideration.

"It's a lot of different equipment and expense to protect in industrial areas versus a residential area," Chief George Mills said. "It takes different equipment to protect a large residential area versus areas with smaller residences."

The plan will take effect July 1999. An average $150,000 home in Wake County could see an fire tax increase of about $50 a year.

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Len Besthoff, Reporter
Gil Hollingsworth, Photographer
Jason Darwin, Web Editor

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