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Locust council hears fire department report on eve of Hurricane Florence

As part of Thursday’s regularly scheduled meeting of the Locust City Council, members of the council, staff and citizens heard a report from West Stanly fire chief Kenny Crump.

Janet Westbrook, representing the Daughters of the American Revolution, poses with Locust Mayor Stephen Huber after the Locust Town Council passed a proclamation at Thursday’s meeting declaring Sept. 17-23 as Constitution Week. (Photo by Charles Curcio)

Crump’s report detailed the number of personnel and equipment which stand ready for disasters of any kind. Special attention was noted regarding the department’s preparedness for problems stemming from the arrival of Hurricane Florence.

According to Crump, West Stanly Fire Department is the only fire department in Stanly to have an advanced life support service. Crump said the department has advanced EMTs as well as personnel trained as paramedics. Fire personnel with the advanced training can start IVs and give prescription meds as allowed by the Stanly County medical director.

West Stanly also has the only heavy rescue service staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Included in those rescues are vehicle extrication, grain silo rescue, high angle rescue and swift water rescue. With the threat of flooding from Florence, Crump said “hopefully we won’t need (swift water rescue) but I feel sure we will.”

Along with Albemarle Fire Department, West Stanly FD are the only two Stanly fire departments to be staffed around the clock. From 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. five people are on duty, three at Station 1 on Central Avenue, and two at Station Two in Stanfield. On the other shift, four persons are on duty at Station 1. As of Thursday night, six were on duty in anticipation of problems arising from Florence and would be through at least Monday morning.

The fire department also has a new addition to its list of apparatuses which may be used in case of rising water from the incoming rains — a 14-foot boat with a 30-horsepower engine which just arrived Wednesday. Crump said members of the department trained in Badin Lake with the boat for events like what was scheduled to arrive this weekend.

West Stanly FD also has an enclosed trailer which can serve as a mobile command center for land search operations or for other enhanced rescues such as swift water. The department is the only one in Stanly with swift water rescue certification by North Carolina Rescue and EMS.

The budget for the West Stanly FD in 2018-19 is approximately $850,000; Crump said around $600,000 of the budget goes to staffing. The tax rate for the fire department is 10 cents per $100 of land value. Crump said the department is looking to re-evaluate the department’s ISO insurance rating, which takes about a year, to hope to reduce the rating from 5.9 to something lower to decrease citizens’ insurance rates.

“We are proud of the service we provide … our people are highly trained and dedicated,” Crump said, adding Rocky River “provides us a lot of problems” in terms of potential swift water problems.

In his administrator’s report to the council, City Administrator Cesar Correa said he met earlier this week with Crump and Police Chief Frank Hartsell regarding plans for potential problems this weekend from Florence.

Correa noted it was almost exactly a year ago when the departments got together to prepare for another hurricane, Caroline. He encouraged people to stay inside and “do not leave the house unless you absolutely have to.”

Because of Florence’s turn toward South Carolina, Correa said, western Stanly may not get affected as much, but he said he expected “substantial rains and heavy winds.” He added the biggest issues he felt the city faced would be downed trees and power outages. Staff members have worked to make sure emergency generators are fueled at the various waste water stations.

Any closure or other pertinent information regarding safety issues in Locust and the area would be posted on the city’s website and Facebook pages.

One event which was cancelled was the finale of the Locust Summer Concert Series on Saturday which was to include fireworks. The event was postponed to Sept. 28.

In other actions, the Council:

  • heard a financial report from Correa, which included a deposit of $894,000 from the county of money collected from various taxes, including property and vehicle. The deposit gives the town’s budget a current surplus of approximately $500,000.
  • approved a proclamation declaring Sept. 17-23 as Constitution Week celebrating the anniversary of the ratifying of the United States Constitution.
  • approved purchase orders for fertilizer, soccer uniforms and baseball caps as well as repairs to the park from earlier storms. The money for uniforms and caps did not come from the city’s budget, according to Councilman Harry Fletcher.
  • approved a budget amendment to take money from business permits to be used for workman’s compensation and to pay for a sidewalk capital project.
  • approved moving $5,825 in additional fees to the North Basin project.
  • heard a report from Councilwoman Mandy Watson on parks and recreation. Watson said the city is taking a poll for which movie to show Nov. 3, while also creating forms necessary for those wishing to participate in the city’s annual Christmas parade.
  • received a report from Councilman Rusty Efird regarding the ABC store. With the initial costs of creating the store having been paid, the city will start receiving more of the profits from the store. In 2017, Locust received $15,000 after having received around $2,000 to $3,000 in previous years. Next year, the store will earn at least $50,000 for Locust, according to Correa, while also adding an additional $25,000-$50,000 in the 3.5 percent markup for sales of bottles.
  • set public hearings for the Oct. 11 meeting on several requests, including a rezoning request for a property on 12047 N. Central Ave. to go from open space to highway business. Hearings were also scheduled on proposed changes to the flood ordinance and the sign ordinance.
  • heard a report from Councilman Roger Hypes regarding the hiring of Cpl. Brittany Tucker to a school resource officer position at Locust Elementary. Funding for the position was passed in May by the council regardless of whether funding could be obtained from the county or state. Hypes said funding has come back from the state to take care of two-thirds of the salary.

The next meeting of the Locust Town Council will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 11 at the Joel Huneycutt Community Room adjacent to city hall.

Contact Charles Curcio via email at charles.curcio@stanlynewspress.com, call (704) 983-1361 or on Twitter (@charles_curcio).