October is not only a stunningly beautiful time of year, but Fire Safety Month. For this reason, we have chosen to feature our rural firefighters in this October newsletter, along with others who risk their lives each day to keep us safe. There's been a lot of talk about how our rural fire departments work with the county's Emergency Services--and we figured that you'd like to be informed on the topic.
As always, there's much more to report. Here are the headlines:
Upcoming Community Events
- McKee Corn Maze is Open for fall family fun. For information, click here.
- Cane Creek Farm Store Opens on Orange Grove Road. Cane Creek Farm has opened a country store at 6933 Orange Grove Road, next to Watson's Automotive. Fresh produce, eggs, meats, assorted goodies and staples are available for purchase.
- Congratulations to Maple View Farm! Bob Nutter of Maple View Farm was recently named North Carolina Farmer of the Year by the NC State Grange.
- County Convenience Centers Open on Sundays. For convenience center schedule changes, including Sunday afternoons, click here.
- Election Day is Tuesday, November 8. All polling places within Orange County will be open on Election Day so that rural residents of the county can conveniently cast their vote "for" or "against" the ¼-cent sales tax. For more, including sample ballots, click here.
October is Fire Safety Month
Every resident of rural Orange County enjoys the protections provided by one of the eight community fire departments that serve the rural community. Each of these eight fire departments is a standalone 501(c)(3) organization, with expert knowledge of local neighborhoods, roads, and water sources. The county contracts with these organizations in order to provide fire and first responder services to the rural community.
Rural fire departments manage their own fire stations, equipment, and both paid and volunteer staff. Many fire houses sit on donated land. They are funded by the fire tax that is included in your county tax bill.
The eight rural fire departments work together, as well as with the towns, in a "mutual aid" system where the three nearest fire departments are dispatched for each fire emergency. Teamwork and camaraderie is essential, for your safety is assured by hundreds of volunteers, both men and women, who are dedicated to serving the rural community.
If you haven't yet taken the opportunity to visit your local fire chief and learn more about your fire department and service area, we encourage you to do so. Bring your family with you, so that your children can get an up-close look at all that a fire truck holds!
Set side some time to learn about fire department budgets, plans for new substations, advances in water hauling capabilities, and services that will both improve fire safety and reduce your homeowner insurance premiums. You will quickly realize that your fire tax is a bargain.
Don't forget about the basics:
- home fire extinguishers and smoke detectors
- reflective address signs that make it easier to find your home
- burn permits--which prevent false alarms
- pet masks donated by Invisible Fence
- volunteer opportunities
Each fire department has its own schedule, so call ahead to arrange a visit. For a list of fire chiefs and phone numbers, click here.
For emergencies, always call 911.
|Rural Firefighters Impacted by Emergency Services |
This past September, the county commissioners met with the fire chiefs, the South Orange Rescue Squad, and the county's Emergency Service Department to learn more about issues that are impacting both the quality and cost of service. Issues include:
- Ambulance Response Times--which have increased from under 10 minutes to an average of 17 minutes (vs NC state average of 12 minutes). Rural communities and non-critical emergencies are experiencing wait times as long as 25-30 minutes or longer. The decline in response times appears to be coincident with the county's decision to eliminate the Immediate Response Vehicle (IRV) program and the North Orange Rescue Squad. IRV's containing medical equipment and a trained paramedic offered lifesaving interventions while ambulances were on en route.
- Radio Stuttering--with complete outages lasting up to 26 seconds, placing firefighters and first responders in danger. This problem is widespread and related to the VIPER system which was implemented nationwide after 9/11. In Orange County, requisite cell towers and repeaters were never put in place. Radio outages are frequent in both the towns and rural parts of the county. Firefighters across the country have perished as a result of similar problems. For more, click here.
- Manual Call Dispatch--where every 911 call goes through a paper dispatch system which slows down the dispatching of police, fire, and ambulance services. A state-of-the-art digital system is needed to assure that emergency personnel are dispatched efficiently and effectively.
- Insurance District Changes--resulting from a new Department of Insurance (DOI) policy is allowing insurers to substantially raise insurance rates for homes in rural areas that are more than six miles from their primary fire station. The DOI policy doesn't consider the distance from the nearest "mutual aid" station, which could be in a different district or town, but would still respond to a call for assistance. In an effort to reduce homeowner insurance premiums, fire chiefs are working with the county and the DOI to assure everyone has insurance coverage. In addition, the county is looking for ways to involve the chiefs in the permitting process for new development, in order to assure that homes can be protected in case of fire or medical emergency.
Most of the problems mentioned above involve the county's Emergency Services Department, which manages the VIPER radio and 911 call center systems. As the county evaluates how to best solve these issues, it will be important to solicit input from both town and rural fire chiefs, police, and the sheriff. After all, decisions made by the county directly effect the operations, equipment, and safety of these and other stakeholders.
The commissioners have scheduled a follow-up work session for Thursday, November 17.
In addition to dealing with issues related to the county's Emergency Services, the fire chiefs--with the assistance of UNC's School of Government--are developing a strategic plan that will address service standards and opportunities for improving already high levels of service to the community.
Where does OCV stand on this matter? OCV supports action on these core service issues, but opposes a tax increase to fund them. Instead, we believe that the county's better option is to delay or cancel non-critical projects in order to cover the cost of one-time capital expenses that will result in a much-improved countywide Emergency Services system.
For OCV's comments, click here.
Please contact Bonnie to learn more or if you are interested in working with us on fire department and 911 services.
Say "No!" to Duke Energy's 17% Rate Hike
It's true--Duke Energy is seeking a 17% rate hike on top of the 8% increase passed in 2010. NCWarn (www.NCWarn.org) is encouraging us to help defeat such an alarming rate hike by attending a public hearing.
Voice your concerns at an upcoming rate hike hearing:
- Charlotte: October 11, at 7 PM, Charlotte Mecklenburg Government Center on East 4th Street
- Marion: October 25, at 7 PM, McDowell County Courthouse
- Franklin: October 26, at 7 PM, Macon County Courthouse
- High Point: October 27, at 7 PM, Council Chambers at High Point City Hall
- Durham: November 2, at 7 PM, Council Chambers at Durham City Hall
- Raleigh: November 28, at 1 PM, North Carolina Utilities Commission, Dobbs Building
For more information concerning these statewide hearings, contact NCWarn.
It will come as a surprise to some that demand for electrical power from homeowners is actually falling. For more, click here.
County Poised to Close Landfill and Help Rogers Road
OCV, in partnership with the Rogers Eubanks Neighborhood Association (RENA) and Justice United, applauds the commissioners for announcing their intention to close the county landfill as planned, in 2013. Their decision is pending discussion with the towns of Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Hillsborough. Their decision is based on research by County Manager Frank Clifton and Interim Assistant Manager Michael Talbert, research which showed that the county landfill is substantially more expensive to maintain than any nearby alternatives--including the Durham Transfer Station and either the Alamance or Person county landfills. For more, click here.
In addition to closing the landfill, the commissioners authorized the county to move forward with some of the mitigation items that are being sought for the Rogers Road community. The county will develop plans to connect homes built before the landfill was sited in 1972, to water service. (Note: water lines were provided in 2000, but resident were left with the unaffordable $3,000-6,000 cost for service connections) The county will also pursue cleaning up nearby illegal dump sites and improving buffers between the Rogers Road community and the landfill.
There's still more to do. With the backing of supporters such as OCV, the Rogers Road community is asking the county and towns to deliver on the long-standing promises of sewer service and a community center.
The county has expressed an interest in providing water lines (but not service connections) to surrounding communities that rely on well water and are within close proximity to the landfill and/or illegal dump sites.
The county commissioners plan to discuss their proposed course of action with the towns before February 4.
Please contact Bonnie if you'd like to work on issues related to the landfill, mitigation for Rogers Road, or research on long-term alternatives for disposal of the county's trash.
No Dog Deer Hunting Ban--Yet!
After once again hearing the pros and cons of dog deer hunting in Northern Orange County, commissioners reaffirmed their commitment to seek a legislative ban on this practice. Attempts to secure such a ban have failed twice--primarily due to unanticipated resistance from Dog Deer Hunting lobbyist Joe McCleese. The commissioners are prepared to try again--and will have OCV's unflagging support.
In the meantime, the county will issue educational materials aimed at helping both county residents and hunters understand the rules. In Orange County, no one can hunt on your land without current written permission. Also, shooting from the road is illegal. The commissioners have asked local hunters to help enforce these rules, all in the interest of public safety.
If you notice dog deer hunters on or near your property, please call 911.
If you'd like to sign our petition to ban dog deer hunting, please click here
. To get involved in our state lobbying efforts to successfully pass a ban on dog deer hunting, please contact Steve
Triangle Land Conservancy is Now Logging?
The October 12, 2011 issue of The Independent reports that the Triangle Land Conservancy is logging conservation land with the help of True North--the same market-driven forest management consulting firm that developed the forestry plans for OWASA.
Unlike OWASA, TLC did not share its forestry plan with taxpayers who contributed to the Clean Water Management Fund or with private donors who support their work through memberships and donations.
To read the Indy article, click here.
|Thank you for your continued support for OCV and the rural community. We are proud of our work with communities and groups throughout Orange County--and that, of course, includes our rural firefighters and first responders.
Please take a few minutes during Fire Safety Month to learn more about your local fire department, and to thank our fire fighters and first responders for their extraordinary service to our community.
Bonnie Hauser, President
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead