HCFR needs more money, or else jobs and equipment will suffer

Horry Co. Fire, Rescue needs funding, personnel

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - A debate going on in Horry County for years, is back on the drawing board. Horry County Fire Rescue Chief Fred Crosby says the department needs changes, but exactly what changes those will be- is left up to Horry County Council.

"You know, it's actually been a matter of debate for years now and it's time to settle the debate," Chief Crosby said Thursday.

HCFR Chief Crosby presented four options to council members at its annual budget retreat last week. One option would be, to have the department continue as is. However, that would mean the department would have to close stations down and, in turn, get rid of firefighters.

"We're overextended. And from our standpoint the worst thing for us would be to be ineffective and to not be able to do the job that people expect of us," Crosby said.

Another option, the one Chief Crosby favors, is to increase the property tax by 3.5 mills which means $14 more in property taxes for a homeowner whose house is valued at $100,000.

Carolina Forest Homeowner Bruce Verian said that amount would be worth the return.

"I think that's a very small price to pay, don't you? Considering what we just had happen over here. If that could all get rectified, it would save the 200 people that are homeless, the agony that they're in right now," Verian said.

Chief Crosby said the national standard is four firefighters per engine. Right now, the county can only staff half that.

"We can't do it without volunteers, it would be too expensive. We can't do it without career people. We can't get enough volunteers that can do enough time for a county this big with this many calls," Chief Crosby said.

Add to that, aging equipment and trucks that break down.

"We have 18 pieces of apparatus that are 23 years old. They should've been replaced between 15 and 18 years old," Chief Crosby said.

In early 2000, the county turned down a similar proposal from the former chief. Council Member Gary Loftus agreed there's an issue, but raising taxes is not something council members take lightly.

"I think certainly they want to look at all the options and you know this council's very conservative. They don't want to even consider a tax increase if there's any other way to accomplish it," Chief Crosby said.

One of the other options Chief Crosby proposed would be the most costly. Chief Crosby said with that money, all the departments' problems would be able to be fixed. The fourth option, according to Chief Crosby, would be somewhere between extremely costly, but not as inexpensive as 3.5 mills.

Horry County Council will hold a workshop in May to discuss each proposal presented by Chief Crosby. Council should make a decision before the end of the fiscal year, which is June 30th.

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