Thursday, July 29, 2010

Let's look at some budget numbers.........................................................

First of all, what does it take to run a fire department?  The SSVFD operates two stations, East Dogwood and South Dogwood, in order to keep all properties in the fire district (which includes Martin's Point) within four miles of a station. The SSVFD has held a Class 5 Municipal rating since 1997 (up from a 9S, the lower the number the better the rating). The net effect of achieving that rating in '97 was that for every $100 the SSVFD cost the average improved property owner, their insurance costs were reduced by $300.

To maintain that rating the SSVFD has to have a Class A Pumper under 20 years old and a Truck (if you want to know the distinction send me a note) at each station. Other than apparatus the rating is based on response time, training records, pump test records, hose test records, hydrant maintenance records, the average number of responding personnel, the presence of required equipment on each apparatus, and the dispatch center.  These were the requirements of the federal ISO in '97. Just 2.5 points more in the score would have given the department a Class 4 rating.

Besides the insurance rating, the fire department also has to meet most of the requirements of OSHA and NFPA.  On occasion the NC Dept. of Insurance may set additional requirements.  You can't keep everyone in the district in the same insurance rate with one station, and you can't just have people jump in a truck and take off to fight a fire anymore. There are too many requirements, too many rules (good for safety), too much of an impact on the public's insurance expense.

So lets look at some numbers.  Our neighboring departments of Duck and Kitty Hawk at one time were independent incorporated vendors just as the SSVFD is now.

Duck - The DVFD is still an incorporated volunteer organization in the town of Duck, but due to a smaller pool of year-round residents, has become more dependent on paid personnel to maintain their response levels.  At the request of the DVFD their paid people are hired as town employees.

Stations:    1
Paid Chief: 1
Paid Deputy Chief: 1
Paid Fire Officers: 3
Volunteers:  30

2009 Budget:    $604,000
2010 Budget:    $654,000

Kitty Hawk - Now a town combination department, mostly paid, but with some volunteers, in the '90's the department was an independently incorporated VFD which fell into disfavour with their town government.  There were accusations of misappropriation of funds, an SBI investigation, and threats of walkouts by the volunteers and a threat of lock-out of the firefighters by the town.  Although no wrong doing was found and no charges were filed, the KHVFD didn't survive, as the volunteers dwindled and the town hired a paid Chief.

Stations:  1
Paid Chief:  1
Paid Fire Officers:  2
Paid Fire Fighters:  5
Volunteers: 18

2009 Budget:  $1,300,000
2010 Budget   $2,000,000

All the numbers above were gathered from either official Town or Fire Department websites.

SSVFD - Serves both Southern Shores and Martin's Point

Stations:  2
Paid Chief:  1
Paid Fire Officers:  0
Paid Firefighters:  0
Volunteer Fire Officers, Firefighters, and Support: 40+

2009 Budget:  $300,000
2010 Budget:  $523,000

Assuming the service levels in all three districts are similar and acceptable to their corresponding towns, which of these three do you honestly think has been the best bargain?

Be aware of this fact:  no one on any side of this issue has cast any doubt or complained about the services provided by the SSVFD.  In fact, the department has received only the highest praise from citizens, council members, and it's peers in the service; not just in Dare County, but throughout the surrounding region.


  1. David,
    The tax return for the Duck fire department only shows revenues of about $280,000, with about $48,000 of that coming from sales, probably t shirt sales. So, how did you get your figures for their budget?...Also, don't understand your comment that because they are smaller, they needed more paid firemen. something is out of kilter here...

  2. EOD:

    I got the budget info from the Town of Duck approved budget document on their website. With a smaller year-round population there is a smaller pool of potential volunteers. It's just my opinion, but as long as you can find the volunteers necessary to function properly, why go to a paid department?

    Back in the '90's researching VFD's I found there were contracted VFD's across the country with multiple stations, running fire and EMS with manned stations. Some with just one paid Chief and a secretary. Although declining, I believe 70% of the firefighters in this country are still volunteers.

  3. Maybe SSVFD should open a t-shirt shop like Duck. Put Don Smith's mug on the shirts and rake in the dough. :)