Mill closure affecting Fire and Rescue staffing

Published 9:44 am Friday, May 21, 2010

FRANKLIN—The shift workers at International Paper Co.’s Franklin mill helped provide a steady stream of volunteers to supplement the paid Franklin Fire and Rescue staff.

With the Franklin mill closing, volunteers—especially for the daytime hours—are harder to come by.

“We’ve already seen a tremendous reduction in the volunteers that we have available,” said Vince Holt, Franklin’s chief of emergency services.

Holt said city still has a volunteer base, but most of them have day jobs and are only available for evening or nighttime calls.

“We still feel like we can get a lot done with our volunteers,” he said. “But we just need to make it known that during the daytime hours it’s going to be very tough to get the calls answered based on the call volume that we are currently experiencing without additional help or possibly reducing the size of the area that we run.”

In addition to the city, Franklin Fire and Rescue serves portions of Isle of Wight and Southampton counties. Southampton County provides the city with operational funds for fire and rescue as well as funding for capital improvements.

“I really feel like we need something similar to that in Isle of Wight County or else we can just no longer afford to provide that service,” Holt said.

He said funds from Isle of Wight would be used to help pay for the three additional staff members needed to continue providing the service to the southern portion of the county.

Currently, the only revenue the department receives from Isle of Wight is billing from calls within the county.

“It’s one of those things that dates back to just being a good neighbor,” Holt said. “At the time that the city started doing it, the call volume in Isle of Wight County was very minimal and now that equates to about 16 percent of our calls.”

City Manager June Fleming said Isle of Wight would not be “blindsided” with a funding request because Holt has already had discussions with county officials.

“We would love for it to be a win-win situation for both Isle of Wight County and us, but our allegiance is with this city and we just don’t want a citizen within this city to go lacking for care because we have overcommitted (to) serving another locality,” Holt said.