GARLAND — Town officials are getting closer to a funding resolution with the Garland Volunteer Fire Department.
During a Monday meeting, Garland Mayor Winifred Murphy presented a contract to commissioners. Through Town Attorney Michael Porter, Murphy received a letter from the department’s attorney, H.W. “Sandy” Sanderson Jr.
“This has been up in the air for some time,” Murphy said regarding a conflict with the department.
In March, the department conveyed that they would end a contract and services if they did not receive more money. Department officials, including Fire Chief Thomas Norris, cited the need for updated equipment and matching funds.
According to a letter sent by the fire department, and read by Murphy on Monday, the department will renew the previous contract, but is requesting that the town pay nothing. The contract previously called for the town to pay $10,000 annually. That leaves the department to rely on funding from Sampson County.
Previously the department asked the town for $25,000 for the new fiscal year, set to begin July 1. During budget talks in the spring, the town offered $11,000.
Duties for the department will not change. Murphy said town officials and Porter worked on drafting the contract, which says the department agrees to provide fire protection and rescue services in the corporate and extra-territorial limits of Garland. The town will still be responsible for providing water, sewer and garbage collection for the department at 375 W. Second St., at no charge.
In a closed session portion of a meeting, Murphy said the commission discussed the possibility of giving the department a donation at some point after verification that the organization is a nonprofit. Commissioner Ralph Smith believes it would be not proper to give one because the department will not accept it.
“That’s probably the reason we’re getting this modified as it is,” Smith said about the new contract.
But after verification of being a nonprofit, Smith suggested a donation of $5,000 per year. The commission later voted unanimously to provide the department a donation of some sort.
Following the decision, Smith a motion to send Sampson County officials a request for the Garland municipality to become a part of the Garland District, which includes a large chunk of land outside the town boundaries.
Commissioner Judy Smith said its a way to avoid dealing with future conflicts and having “a means to an end.”
“Are we going to have to deal with this every year? I think it would be in our best interest to go on with the county and have that security,” she said.
In 2016, the fire department made a request for a 10 cent tax per $100 valuation on personal and real estate property, which was estimated to generate close to $30,000. Commissioners turned the request down for financial reasons. During that year, the department responded to 193 calls. More than 150 were outside the town limits of Garland. The department responded to 36 calls in Garland.
According to the contract presented on Monday, services with the department will continue through June 30, 2018.
“This is something that will get us through the year so our citizens will not lose fire protection,” Murphy said.