Fire update highlights quiet post-budget work session

kjahner@newsobserver.comJune 27, 2014 

— In a brief work session – the council’s first gathering since passing the budget – Garner Voluneer Fire and Rescue provided a mid-year update that indicated increased activity for an agency the town used a tax increase to help fund.

Fire Chief Matt Poole also announced the first four-firefighter engine company. He said since the town funded the three new firefighters to make it possible, Station 3 at Vandora Springs and Timber Drive would house the increased staffing. That station predominantly serves fires inside Garner’s corporate limits.

Overall, 60 percent of the department’s 2,252 calls so far this year have come from in town. The town contractually pays for 54 percent of Garner Fire’s budget, but with Wake County holding firm on its share, it has gone above that to help the agency meet basic needs. The agency has a significantly smaller budget than other departments and agencies serving similar populations and call volumes.

The fourth firefighter will also float between other stations when vacation days or sick leave result in shortages elsewhere. That will minimize overtime, which was a main reason Poole asked for the added personnel the past two years.

The budget, which featured a one-cent tax increase to help make up for a shortfall in fire costs, also provided for the promotion of a part-time administrative assistant to a full-time executive assistant with an expanded role.

The department’s 1,288 medical calls, including eight cardiac arrest saves, made up the majority of its 2,252 calls, which is 72 more than the same time last year. Fire calls sent the agency to 114 total fires, which included house, garbage and grass fires.

Risk management

Budget and special projects manager Jamie Ludovic presented a detailed financial risk assessment of various money-taking town entities. She said she found no major areas of concern but did advise standardization of certain procedures.

Ludovic had assessed the risk of financial fraud, theft of town equipment, theft of information, harm to town reputation and failure to comply with legislation or policy.

With a scoring system that rated about 30 areas in 11 categories from least risk to most risk, finance administration and police risk presented the largest overall scores but also have the most robust outside oversight.

Ludovic advised standardization of money-collecting procedures and required ethics training for town council, department heads and the town manager.

An updated town purchasing policy was also presented Tuesday. The policy had not been updated since 1993 and needed fixes to bring it into compliance with state law, among other issues.

Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @garnercleveland

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