Homeowners seek change in fire district

If approved, homeowners’ insurance rates would drop

By Kevin Spradlin

HAMLET — A group of homeowners have signed a petition requesting their primary fire and EMS district be changed.

Select homeowners along Fox Road, located between state routes 177 and 1 between Hoffman and Hamlet, is served by the Hamlet fire and rescue organizations. They’re hoping for understanding from county fire chiefs, the Hamlet City Council and the Richmond County commissioners, the latter whom have authority to approve the change for the area to be served by Hoffman Fire and Rescue.

IMG_5246If approved, homeowners could see a reduction in homeowners’ insurance rates between $400 and $1,400 each year. Hamlet Fire Chief David Knight told Mayor Bill Bayless and City Council members at the city’s public meeting on Oct. 14 that the loss of revenue to the city would be approximately $1,600.

Along with covering the city of Hamlet’s 6,500, Knight said the Hamlet first-responders cover another 900 residents in Dobbins Heights and 2,600 more in rural parts of Richmond County, to the Scotland County line, East Rockingham and U.S. Route 1.

Knight explained that insurance companies are using modern technology to more accurately determine the distance between a home and its primary fire station. The greater the distance, the higher the insurance rate, Knight said.

When Hoffman Fire and Rescue opened its Marston station, that meant Hamlet became the second-closest station able to serve Fox Road residents. It’s seven road miles between the Hamlet fire station and Fox Road, Knight said. And Fox Road is three miles long, making the outermost home on Fox Road about 10.2 miles away.

The distance has helped insurance carriers to categorize homeowners as Class 10 — the highest rate possible. If approved, the move could give some homeowners a rating of 6.

If the residents’ request is approved, “homeowners would get a tremendous discount,” Knight said.

Each of the nine fire chief will vote in a November association meeting. Prior to that, Hamlet City Council members are expected to give Knight his direction. A single dissenting vote would shoot down the residents’ request.

“It must be unanimous,” Knight told council members. “If you give me consensus you don’t want it to happen, I’ll vote no. It dies right there.”

If the recommendation moves forward, the commissioners would then weigh in on the matter.

Though no vote was taken earlier this month, Hamlet officials seemed to understand residents’ plight. The kicker, however, is that Hamlet units might be required to respond anyway. If the request is approved, Fox Road would be in the secondary coverage area for Hamlet fire and rescue personnel.

“Within three minutes if (Hoffman volunteers) don’t respond, they would page again,” Knight said. “Another three minutes, they would page Hoffman (again) and the next closest department, which would be us.”

Said Councilman Tony Clewis: “We’re basically still going to have to go.”

“Yes, sir,” Knight replied.

Bayless noted that it’s only a $1,600 loss to the city but nearly that amount for some of the individual homeowners.

“Somehow, I just feel it’s unfair to do that,” he said. “But I would think Northside (Volunteer Fire Department) would be first to call (for) secondary (coverage).”

Bayless recalled the city gave up a portion of Fox Road coverage to Northside fire department “several years ago.”

Councilman Jesse McQueen asked Knight if other residents in other parts of the county could opt to have their fire district changed. Yes, Knight said, especially if it would lower their insurance rates.

“I do see the possibility of other citizens wanting to try and get as close to a fire station” as possible, Knight said, “to lower their insurance premium. That’s really impacting the homeowners themselves.”

Councilman Pat Preslar seemed onboard with the idea and expressed hope that the city could pick up a few residents in its fire district just as some could be lost.



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