Unusual feud over water intensifies between NC town’s EMS, town commissioners

Grifton's EMS Chief Ervin Harper says a town commissioner accused the EMS of stealing water (WNCT)

GRIFTON, N.C. (WNCT) – An unusual feud over water is intensifying between Grifton elected leaders and the town’s EMS.

It stems from an incident in May where Grifton EMS Chief Ervin Harper said he was approached and accused of stealing water from the town. Commissioners deny the accusation of stealing was ever made.

Commissioner Mike Coles said it was brought to his attention that water usage wasn’t been registered by the water meter behind Grifton EMS. After further inspection, they discovered a water pipe diverting water around the meter had been put in place years ago. It hadn’t been picked up on since Grifton EMS had never been charged for water, which Coles said was a mistake and an oversight.

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Harper and other members of the EMS squad are now upset about allegedly being accused of stealing.

“We don’t appreciate being called thieves,” Harper said. “You know we’ve been here 55 years on July 4th.”

But Commissioner Coles argues they couldn’t be accused of stealing something they were never asked to pay for in the first place.

During Tuesday’s commissioner’s meeting, Harper demanded a public apology by commissioners. He never received one.

“I have no idea why they’re owed an apology because they were never accused of any wrongdoing,” said Coles.

Because of the allegations and accusations, Harper informed commissioners they were banned from coming onto their property, unless it was a medical emergency or they needed somewhere to seek shelter during a storm.

“At the time being, the town board has been banned from this property, and until things improve they will not come back,” he said.

He also informed the town he wanted to be billed each month for any water used.

Harper said since the incident in May, two paramedics have quit because they felt disrespected by the town they serve. Coles said the town has no role in paramedics quitting, and wants the two sides to work out their differences.

“We need to work together, and until there’s a mending of the fences, I don’t see that happening,” he said.

Coles said he has approached Pitt County officials to see whether the town could assume operations of the EMS department in Grifton.

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