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County discusses future of contract with West Macon Fire Department due to “no-show” calls

During the April meeting of the Macon County Board of Commissioners, Emergency Management Director Warren Cabe informed the board that during a recent inspection, West Macon Fire Department was found to have four operational deficiencies, including not responding to service calls within the district.

In North Carolina, volunteer fire departments can operate as contracted services with county governments. Typically, the county government will enter into an agreement with the volunteer fire department that outlines the terms of the relationship, including the services to be provided, funding, equipment and facilities, personnel, and other relevant details.

Under this arrangement, the volunteer fire department operates as an independent entity, but receives funding and other resources from the county government to carry out its services. The county government may also provide oversight and support to the volunteer fire department to ensure that it is meeting the terms of the agreement and providing adequate services to the community.

During Macon County’s annual 9S inspection of fire departments in the county in May 2022, concerns were found within West Macon’s department that included:

1.      Insufficient number of personnel on the roster (They had 16, needed 19, 15 for main station, 4 for substation)

2.      One non-response to a structure fire (4 people and an engine)

3.      One non response to an automatic aid call to a neighboring district ( one apparatus)

4.      One non response to a commercial fire alarm (Did not send anyone, neighboring department covered it)

“We sent them a certified letter the last week in May 2022 stating the deficiencies, placed them on a probationary status which means we intensively review their operations and records for a period up to eight months, and requested a plan of action on how these issues would be corrected,” said Cabe. “We received a response back stating two career personnel had left their employment and several volunteers had moved out of the district. There had also been some managerial changes at the department. They were recruiting new members and attempting to hire some part-time employees along with utilizing things such as online training, etc to try and accommodate members in receiving their training. They also cited increasing call volume and outside demands on volunteers time as issues.”

Cabe noted that the department was reviewed monthly and although they had some responses with low numbers of members, they did not have another response failure that met the requirements of a “non-response” as outlined in their contract throughout the eight month period.

“The eight month period ended at the end of February 2023 and we re-inspected the personnel roster the second week of March. There were still 16 members listed that had adequate training time to be counted as roster members,” explained Cabe.

West Macon was notified in March of this year that they still did not have adequate numbers of personnel on the roster and that commissioners would be informed of the issues during the April meeting and per the contract, the board could take action up to and including termination of the contract for service. 

According to Cabe, the county offices were contacted by the fire department the week prior to the county board meeting to notify that they now had the needed number of personnel on the roster, which was confirmed by Cabe before the April board meeting. 

Cabe explained to the board that while county commissioners could terminate their contract with West Macon, there aren’t other vendors lined up to fulfill the need. If the county were to cancel a contract with a service provider such as trash pick up, it would be likely there would be another service provider to pick up the contract, however when it comes to volunteer fire departments, there aren’t resource pools to dip into. So rather than cancel the contract at this time, Cabe recommended, and commissioners agreed, to continue monitoring the department. 

“West Macon is scheduled for a 9S inspection and a rating inspection by the NC Office of State Fire Marshal on May 22, 2023,” said Cabe. “I informed the Fire Chief that at a minimum our office would continue monthly reviews of their department at least until the NC OSFM inspection and then we would review the results of that inspection to determine if further action was necessary.”

One Comment

  1. Justin Justin May 29, 2023

    Considering the “genius” behind is one of the volunteers at West Macon, it’s a miracle they ever get anything done. I know Brian has been pretty busy calling for an even bloodier and more devastating civil war (national divorce)

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