Better, more up-to-date Fire Station, Town Hall and Police Station

By / Letters to the Editor / Wednesday, 30 August 2017 04:00

To Kure Beach residents and property owners:
During my seven years on Town Council, one of the things I heard over and over was the need for a better, more up-to-date fire station and police station. Year after year, Council members promised the staff their facilities would be replaced and expanded.
There were times when the employees had to take things into their own hands. Since 2010 our Fire Department, including full-time and volunteer firemen, with a few contract workers, removed two offices to provide a bunkroom for our first nightshift. This allowed our response times to decrease from six minutes after 7 p.m. to under three minutes. Approximately 600 square feet had to be added to make up for the loss of office space. Again, our firefighters did most of the construction. One of our biggest and most dangerous problems, however, continues to be the lack of ventilation. We desperately need better ventilation in our bay area, which affects the whole building.
While we are fortunate enough to still have volunteers, Kure Beach moved to a full-time fire department in 2016 to provide more consistent and timely life-altering services which our town needs and residents demand 24 hours a day. The small bunkroom in the old station is not adequate. We need separate sleeping quarters; separate bathrooms; a public bathroom; a training room designed to handle our full-time firemen and 43 volunteers, with a turnout gear room and apparatus bay room to reduce or eliminate carcinogens; and a workout room for all town staff.
The small office in the Fire Department is not sufficient enough to handle administration, fire inspection, ocean rescue, emergency management space for town staff during natural disasters, and other demands for the department such as data collection on high-risk incidents like hurricanes.
Meanwhile, about five years ago, the Kure Beach Police Department built a temporary storage building and “treehouse” to house files and equipment not needed on a daily basis. More recently, they divided the patrol room to provide an interview and interrogation room. Since 2000, the department has doubled in size. The small patrol room, offices and storage are grossly inadequate for the growing needs of the department.
In addition, our Building Inspector (who also serves as our Planning and Zoning Officer, Code Enforcement Officer, CAMA Local Permit Officer, Floodplain Administrator and Town liaison to the US Corps of Engineers) AND his Assistant continue to share an office that doubles as a conference room and storage area.  Again…grossly inadequate.
It was because of this extreme need for additional space for our employees and years of promises that never came true that forced me to bring up the issue at our first budget retreat February 22, 2016. I basically said, “It is time for us to put up or shut up.” We needed to tell our employees officially to “Forget it. We’re not going to help you.” OR “We’re going to provide the facilities you need to do your job, AND find the money to do it.”
Fortunately, we made the latter decision and voted to build a new fire station, and renovate the old one plus town hall, to provide the space needed for the Police Department, Building Inspections and other staff. My only regret is that we are not providing any additional space to house Public Works equipment.
After that first budget retreat in 2016, Council discussed the new station and renovations at the second budget meeting, April 22, and at the Public Hearing on the budget June 9, 2016. Council meetings that included further public discussion of the project were the March, June and July Council meetings (agendas for those meetings were publically posted and advertised as required); and two publically-advertised Special Meetings were held specifically for the project on May 12 and July 19, 2016.
In 2017, the construction project was discussed at the Town retreat on January 24, again during our two budget work sessions April 7 and 21, and as part of the Budget Hearing June 6, 2017. Design concepts were approved and interviews held with architects and project managers during regular Council meetings in February, April, May, July and August.
Again, for both years, the agenda for all these budget sessions and town meetings were posted in public and advertised in the news media, on the Town’s website and to the 1,200 people on our weekly email list.
Meanwhile, if you (our residents and property owners) do not come to town budget meetings, if you do not attend regular Council meetings or public hearings, if you do not read the Island Gazette, if you do not talk to Town staff or elected officials, if you do not walk these halls and see the overcrowded, aging conditions in which the men and women must work, then you may not understand our decision.
If, however, you truly want and care about providing your homes and businesses, your family and neighbors with the best and most timely fire protection, ocean rescue, first responders for medical service, excellent law enforcement, great enforcement of your planning and zoning regulations, protection of your ocean front and Coastal Storm Damage Reduction, then you will understand why it is necessary to provide our workforce with the best possible facilities and most up-to-date equipment and technology to do their jobs.
Thank you,
Emilie Swearingen, Mayor


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