Five of six volunteer fire departments have not signed new contracts with Currituck County, citing concerns about the county taking too much control over a service that has been run by local communities for at least 50 years.
In the new contracts , the county, among other things, takes over managing finances of the departments for the first time and defines the county fire chief, hired earlier this year.
Some volunteers worry that the county will control how the local departments spend their money. Others fear the county fire chief will have power to run each department instead of the local chief.
“That’s our beef,” said Ryland Poyner, chief of the Crawford Volunteer Fire Department.
The Moyock Fire Department has signed its contract.
County officials are only going to manage finances and will not dictate how the money is spent, said Dan Scanlon, Currituck County manager. The countywide fire chief has administrative duties and will not direct each department, he said.
In the end, the dispute will not affect fire services, said Poyner and Corolla Fire Chief Marshall Cherry.
“I don’t think it’s a show stopper; we just need to work out the details,” Cherry said.
In past years, the fire departments have gone two months or more without signing the annual contracts and have continued fighting fires, Poyner said.
“We will be here as we’ve always been,” he said.
With the new budget that took effect July 1, the county eliminated individual fire tax districts and created a 2-cent countywide fire tax. Each fire district will get more this year than last year.