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Knotts Islanders to pay fire tax

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

CURRITUCK — With Currituck County taking over fire services on Knotts Island with paid firefighters, the community’s residents will be expected to start paying an annual fee for fire protection.

Details on how much the Knotts Island fire district tax will be, and when it will be assessed to Knotts Islanders have yet to be released. 

County Manager Dan Scanlon said in email Tuesday that Currituck officials are working on responses to those questions. He did not know when the responses would be ready.

Attempts to reach Board of Commissioners Chairman Bobby Hanig for further comment about the new district tax for Knotts Islanders were unsuccessful Tuesday.

Currituck officials announced the proposed district fire tax for Knotts Island last week in the same press release in which they announced that Currituck Fire-EMS will continue to be the lead agency for fire response in the remote community.

Fire-EMS Chief Chip Melton had previously told The Daily Advance, following a closed-door meeting of Currituck commissioners on Nov. 20, that his agency will be providing fire response on Knotts Island for “the foreseeable future."

Currituck Fire-EMS took over management of fire services on Knotts Island after the volunteer fire department that had provided those services announced on Nov. 8 it was suspending its operations.

Knotts Island VFD Chief Derek Morgan said his department didn’t have any option but to cease services after it was unable to reach agreement on a contract extension with the county. All volunteer fire departments in Currituck sign annual contracts with the county to provide fire protection services. In return for agreeing to provide fire protection in their community, the volunteer fire departments receive county taxpayer funds.

Morgan maintains that the Knotts Island VFD has sought a contract extension with the county through at least the end of the year but has yet to hear anything from Currituck officials about its request.

Melton told The Daily Advance that Currituck doesn’t plan to sign a contract extension for services it doesn’t believe it’s getting from the Knotts Island VFD.

"The county has no intention of entering into a contract for a service that is not being provided," he said, citing the VFD’s lack of trained volunteers and past inconsistent response to fires.

The Knotts Island fire station is currently being staffed around the clock by four paid Currituck Fire-EMS personnel. Two are assigned to an ambulance based at the station and two are assigned to the station's firefighting units, but all four are cross-trained as both emergency medical technicians and firefighters.

Melton emphasized the Knotts Island Volunteer Fire Department has a lot of dedicated volunteers and made clear the county appreciates the service they’ve provided in the past.

County spokesman Randall Edwards, in last week’s press release, said all current Knotts Island volunteer firefighters — as well as any Knotts Island residents interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter — are welcome to submit an application to the county.

Edwards said those interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter in Knotts Island should contact Fire Lt. Ray Irizarry via email at Ray.Irizarry@CurrituckCountyNC.gov or go to Currituck County’s Internet link at http://www.co.currituck.nc.us/fire-departments.cfm.

Morgan could not be reached Tuesday for comment on how many current Knotts Island volunteer firefighters are expected to take the county up on its offer.

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