ELIZABETHTOWN — Should Elizabethtown pull the plug on the Rescue Squad building in town or administer resuscitation?
When Town Council members met with town staff Monday for the annual budget planning retreat, the group talked about what to do with the building. Lying below grade as it does, the building is prone to flooding. When Hurricane Matthew came through, it sustained enough damage that the Rescue Squad had to relocate to a building owned by Bladen’s Bloomin’ in the Industrial Park, where it remains housed today.
Town Manager Eddie Madden told the board the building has had so many problems over the years that, in recent years, the insurance company has denied the town’s claims for repair. In addition, gutters are hanging loose from the eaves, and weeds are growing on the structure.
When the town recently applied to FEMA for aid with flood damage from Matthew, FEMA requested other options. At the retreat, Madden laid out four for the council’s consideration:
- Renovate the building to pre-storm condition at an estimated cost of $40,000.
- Demolish the structure and replace the facility with a new one on site. Demolition is estimated at $40,000 and a new facility at $850,000,
- Demolish the facility and do not replace it. This option leaves open the possibility of repurposing the property as a storm water retention facility, a project that could be entered into jointly with N.C. DOT.
- Demolish the building and relocate the Rescue Squad to a different facility.
Madden pointed out that FEMA’s grant requires the town to maintain flood insurance on the building going forward and that it would not provide aid for the structure were it to flood again. He further told the Council the Rescue Squad does not pay rent for the building.
“I don’t think we can afford to do anything,” said Councilman Dicky Glenn.
Since the Rescue Squad doesn’t do technical rescue anymore and focuses solely on medical transport — and the Elizabethtown Fire Department has plans to become a rescue facility — Councilman Ricky Leinwand offered, “It doesn’t seem to me that it would affect the welfare of the community if it were shut down.”
The group agreed to await word from FEMA regarding the application before moving forward with a decision.
In other business, the board:
— Heard a financial update from Finance Officer Jay Leatherman. Leatherman recommended a 1.5 percent cost of living adjustment in town salaries but no increase in the tax rate. He suggested increases in the administration fee for water and sewer and for the credit card fee, as well as a charge for reserving picnic shelters.
— Saw a knuckle truck with a 24-foot arm the Public Works Department would like to purchase. The truck — around $140,000 new — would help the town pick up appliances and large-item yard waste.
— Learned about the STEP Program from Planning Coordinator Billie Hall. Hall said the program offers low-interest loans to people wanting to start or improve a business in Elizabethtown.
— Gave Fire Chief Nick West input about the fire hydrants. Earlier this year, the department began repainting the fixtures, but stopped about halfway through after receiving negative feedback from residents. Council members questioned whether the public understood the reasons behind the change, and, after seeing an alternative, advised West to continue painting the hydrants.
— Learned from Police Chief Tony Parrish that residential break-ins were down 46.8 percent, business break-ins were down 40 percent, vehicle break-ins were down 50 percent, and criminal investigations were down 20 percent in 2016 when compared to 2015.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.