“With the budget issues we’re facing, and we’ll probably face again next year, we have to try to maximize the tax dollars to benefit all parties, to benefit the citizens,” Councilman Gra Singleton said.
The Garner Rescue currently has three full-time positions and three part-time positions along with volunteers. The Council voted to begin talks between the Rescue and Fire leaders as well as Town representatives to shift the manpower to the Fire Dept., making the six positions all fulltime.
The nearly $270,000 in funding for the Rescue Dept. would be transferred to the Fire Dept.
Singleton said the Town has paid an annual amount of more than $50,000 for a new Rescue truck. Town staff will begin discussions soon with the Rescue Dept. to determine how that asset will be distributed. However, the most pressing matter is the personnel. Deputy Fire Chief Matt Poole said the next school starts July 1 for nine months of training, which the new Fire Dept. employees would need in order to make sure they have training in fire protection as well as their EMS experience.
But Rescue Dept. leaders aren’t sure the transition can take place that fast.
“I think we know this has been coming for some time. It will be the future of Garner; it’s going to happen one of these days,” Chief William Frederick said.
Still he said it’s not feasible to have everything ready by July 1. “I don’t think three weeks is anywhere near ample time to do it,” he said.
By the June 7 Town Council meeting, Rescue and Fire Dept. leaders had not yet had the chance to meet. Frederick said it was because he had been told of the merger June 3.
Councilmen Buck Kennedy and Singleton said it was necessary to get the ball rolling.
“It begs to be started now,” Kennedy said.
Singleton said it wouldn’t be advantageous to draw out the start of the merger.
“If we don’t start now talking, then we’ll be dragging it out for another six months and we can’t do that,” he said. “We need to go ahead and get the discussion rolling.”
Poole said he is happy to accept the new employees with open arms and they would have the chance to go to training with the seven to nine new Fire Dept. recruits that they would be working with.
“Our intention is not to put anyone out of a job, especially in this economy and the service they provide has been very adequate,” he said.
It’s the end of era as far as some are concerned. Howard Hudson of the Rescue Dept. said the team has had an outstanding run.
“We didn’t do this just as rescue. We didn’t do this just as fire. For the 35 years, we’ve worked together and I had to see it come to an end, but I understand – it’s taken a little while,” Hudson said.