The answer is "no"
County says no, as Clinton asks for $6,000 fire increase
Adopting the county’s budget 20 minutes earlier, Laurens County Council said “no” last Tuesday night to a request from the City of Clinton to increase its fire service appropriation.
No one from the city was present at the council’s meeting to discuss the matter, so council member Dr. David Pitts’ motion to approve the $6,154.43 increase died for lack of a second. “You can’t give people someone money until they tell you why they need it,” council vice-chairman Keith Tollison said.
The City of Clinton submitted a letter explaining that most of its fire and rescue calls come from the area of Laurens County outside the city limits. The city asked for a cost-of-living increase of 2.1% - the national rate of inflation.
Last year, the Laurens County Fire Service gave the City of Clinton a 1.31% increase - last year’s rate of inflation.
Pitts said based on the Clinton Department of Public Safety’s call volume, the money increase was justified. Others said they could not vote for the increase because it would cause a change in the $3 million Fire Service Budget (old business), approved on final reading 20 minutes before the city’s increase request (new business) came up on the council’s regular meeting agenda.
County Attorney Sandy Cruickshanks said it would take three readings and a public hearing to give Clinton the increase, since the fire budget was already approved.
That budget keeps the money going to Clinton to respond to calls outside the city limits at last year’s amount, $293,068.07.
The city was asking for an increase to $299,222.50.
The county has a similar agreement with Fountain Inn, which it will terminate now that a new fire sub-station on Thompson Road (northern Laurens County) has come on-line. The County Fire Budget also funds the fire administration (with some paid firefighters) and stations staffed by volunteers throughout the county.
Council Chairman Joe Wood told Fire Service Director Greg Lindley that the departments had responded very well during recent emergencies.
County firefighters and volunteers stayed on the scene of a truck wreck, carrying meat to a dog food plant, on Hwy 25 for 14 hours, and responded to a tanker truck wreck in Donalds, Anderson County, where a special spray was used to stop a fuel leak, Lindley said.
The council allowed Lindley to move ahead with acquiring a fire/rescue truck to be stationed at Greenpond. The county replaced an Ekom truck, that was wrecked, with a vehicle paid for by insurance, and the vendor gave the county the chance to buy a second truck at the same price. Lindley said by 2020, the Laurens County Fire Service’s long-range plan calls for four replacement trucks. This second truck will take the place of one of those four replacement trucks.
“We’re going to need four fire-rescue trucks. This takes one off the list,” Lindley said.
Council could re-visit the City of Clinton’s request, submitted April 24, past the deadline for fire departments to make funding requests in the FY 18-19 budget. The city’s letter asking for additional money says Clinton Public Safety will spend $372,733.88 next year responding to fire-rescue calls in its fire district (urban and rural). The most recent statistics show these call percentages outside the city limits are:
--55.9% of structure fires;
--56% of motor vehicle accidents;
--70.7% of brush/wildland fires;
--60% of vehicle fires.
Pitts said Clinton’s call volume is “extraordinary” because the city’s Department of Public Safety is first responder on two interstate highways - I-26 and I-385. Council member Diane Anderson said if it were important, someone from the City of Clinton would attend the meeting to discuss the request. Tollison said, “I don’t doubt the call volume. They should come before council.”