Garner could see tax hike to maintain fire service

GARNER, N.C. (WNCN) — The Raleigh Fire Department plans to pull support from the town of Garner starting in July which leaves Garner with two possible options — raising taxes or facing increases wait times for service and increase insurance rates.

Every year Garner receives 5,000 calls for service, however, 20 percent of those calls overlap with one another.

Garner Fire Department Chief, Matt Poole, says the department has been able to rely on its back-up engine in these situations to cover the other 84 square miles of the town. The town is able to have a backup engine due to Raleigh’s support during structure fires.

But, in July, that will change.

Raleigh Fire Department Chief, John McGrath, says every time Raleigh Fire offers an engine to Garner it leaves the southern part of Raleigh unattended. He says this compromises the level of service the department can offer its own tax-paying citizens in Raleigh.

In a letter from Chief McGrath to Chief Poole, it also states the support was supposed to be temporary and would be terminated when Garner completed its Station 4.

“We did know about it, but we weren’t prepared,” said Garner Mayor, Ronnie Williams.

To get back up to full staff Garner will need to hire nine new fire fighters which will cost about half a million dollars.

Williams says there is no money left in the budget and they are considering raising taxes.

“The people of Garner I don’t think, even if we raise the taxes one cent, I don’t think they will have a problem with if it’s ear marked for fire service,” he said.

“When I needed the fire department, they were here — had they not been here and the response time being what it was. I wouldn’t be here doing this interview,” said Barry Greenfield, who was recently rescued.

Last month Greenfield was having heart failure. He says Garner Fire and EMS were at his house in minutes and able to save him.

Greenfield says, he doesn’t want to see taxes go up, but knows keeping the fire department fully staffed is needed.

“It’s important. First hand, I can tell you it’s important,” he said.

Mayor Williams says the town has officially requested the City of Raleigh postpone its cutoff date until next year.

McGrath says they’ve already pushed back the date by months and it will take months to hire and train new fire fighters to get garner back up to full staff.

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