FEBRUARY 3, 1999


The Henderson County Board of Commissioners met for a special called meeting at 7:00 p.m. in the Commissioners' Conference Room of the Henderson County Office Building.

Those present were: Chairman Grady Hawkins, Vice-Chair Bill Moyer, Commissioner Renee Kumor, Commissioner Don Ward, Commissioner Marilyn Gordon, Assistant County Manager Angela S. Beeker, and Clerk to the Board Elizabeth W. Corn.

Also present were: Staff Attorney Jennifer O. Jackson, Finance Director J. Carey McLelland, Fire Marshal Rocky Hyder, and Assistant EMS Director Terry Layne.

Absent were: County Manager David E. Nicholson and County Attorney Don H. Elkins.


Chairman Hawkins called the meeting to order and welcomed all in attendance. He stated that the purpose of this meeting was a work session with the Volunteer Fire Departments. He informed those in attendance that there would be no public input.


Chairman Hawkins reminded the Board that on December 16,1998, at the Commission meeting the Board looked at a Fire & Rescue Advisory Board and a set of by-laws was presented at that time for the Board=s review. The Commissioners accepted as principal the establishment of a Fire & Rescue Advisory Board pursuant to the draft by-laws presented and welcomed comments/input from the public. On December 31,1998, Chairman Hawkins sent Don Gash, President of the Henderson County Fireman=s Association, a letter to try to clarify the Board=s action and interest in establishing such an Advisory Board.

Chairman Hawkins explained that the Board of Commissioners is not interested in taking over control of the fire departments. He explained that the purpose of the Advisory Board would be to advise the Commissioners concerning fire and rescue services in the County. Their duties would include assisting the Commissioners with reviewing the departments= budget requests, tax rates and other county wide administrative issues. The purpose was not to supersede the responsibilities of the individual departments or their Board of Directors. The Commissioners would not consider establishing this Board without seeking input from the Fireman=s Association on its function and to request membership from the Association on the Board.

On January 1,1999, Henderson Highlights noted that the Board was looking for volunteers for the yet to be formed Advisory Board. When the ANominations@ for Fire & Rescue Advisory Board came up in the Commissioners= agenda book, Chairman Hawkins asked that they be pulled because the Board had not yet received feed back from the Fireman=s Association. Chairman Hawkins apologized for any confusion that these events may have caused.

The Local Bill (1973 Reg. Sess. Chapter 947)that established the Fire Commission is about a quarter of a century old. Since that time there have been a lot of changes, one of those being the NC Statute that set the parameters for the Fire Marshal.

The Commissioners would like to have a better vehicle to communicate with the Fireman=s Association. Chairman Hawkins reviewed briefly some reasons why the Board of Commissioners want a Fire and Rescue Advisory Board:

1. Revenue Issues

a. Revenue Neutral

b. Annexations and Industry

2. Staffing

3. Debt

4. Emergency Medical Services

5. County Rescue Squad

6. Distribution of funds

7. Review Contract

8. Fire Districts

Chairman Hawkins then opened the floor to discussion from the Fireman=s Association about how best to proceed with getting a good communications vehicle.


Dr. Howard Norton thanked the Board of Commissioners for meeting with the Fireman=s Association. He stated that the five members in attendance represent the 13 departments in the county and the 650 firemen in the county. He recognized the members of the committee in attendance:

1. Don Gash, 19 year fireman, presently the Assistant Chief at Etowah/Horse Shoe Fire Department. He is a former chief. He is current President of the Henderson County Fire & Rescue Association.

2. Gary Livingston, a 20 year fireman officially, but his Father was a fireman before him so he was partially raised at the fire house. He is the current chief at Mills River and has been for the last four year.

3. Gary Brown, a 30 year fireman, presently the Assistant Chief of the Blue Ridge Fire Department and a former chief. Gary has held all the positions they have at Blue Ridge.

4. Sonny Ihler, a 23 year fireman, presently the Chief at Valley Hill and has been chief for the last nine years.

5. Dr. Howard Norton, a 30 year fireman, member of the Henderson County Fire Commission for 25 years. He has been on the Board of Directors for Mills River for 30 years and President for the last 18 years. He, too, has held most of the positions in the fire department, both tactical training and the business of running the department.

Dr. Norton reviewed briefly the course of events that Chairman Hawkins had discussed earlier and stated that they did cause a lot of anxiety among the firemen. They felt this entire matter would be put into effect without them ever having a chance to offer any input.

This committee of five was established to meet with the Board of Commissioners and have a fact finding meeting and find out how the Fireman=s Association could have some input. They want to know how they can help the Board of Commissioners by supplying information. The five member committee will carry any information gleaned from this meeting back to their respective departments and the entire Fireman=s Association.


Chairman Hawkins stated that the proposed by-laws were worked up by Rocky Hyder after looking at by-laws of various committees across the state. Chairman Hawkins stated that the Board of Commissioners still wants a response to the draft by-laws and to how best the County can provide fire service throughout the county in an efficient manner. The Board needs to know what the firefighters do for our community and what it costs the community.

The five member committee was asked to take the draft by-laws back to the individual fire departments for response. The committee was not prepared to respond to the Board of Commissioners.


Dr. Norton stated that the Fire Commission is willing to accept an expanded role. He asked if the Board would consider keeping the Fire Commission and expanding their role. It was the feeling of the Commissioners that they would be asking too much of that three member Commission. They would consider having those three members on the Fire and Rescue Advisory Board and adding additional members to help with the expanded role.

FIVE MEMBER COMMITTEE - representing the Fireman=s Association

The Committee members requested that the Commissioners visit each of the fire departments to see the space, the equipment, and how each department operates.

They also requested that any complaints that come to the Board of Commissioners be forwarded to the department in question.

The committee also asked if the amount discussed ($25,000)in the by-laws was negotiable (Article II: Purpose, Section 2). ATo review and make recommendations for fire and rescue service delivery funding and capital or lease purchase expenditures over $25,000.@ Following discussion, the Board of Commissioners asked the committee to suggest a figure they would be happy with that would be reasonable.

Dr. Norton stated that this meeting has helped to clear up some of the misunderstanding. He stated that they would take the information back to their departments and he asked for a date for the next joint meeting. The response from the Commissioners was to hold the next joint meeting some time in March.

Dr. Norton explained that there are two departments in our county that realistically need supplements to operate: Gerton and Bat Cave.


Chairman Hawkins turned the meeting over to Rocky Hyder who distributed two maps of Henderson County. One map was of the current fire districts and the other was of proposed fire districts. He explained that the proposed fire districts are established along property lines, making it easier to read the maps and know each district. Each fire department chief has helped work on these proposed new fire districts. Staff proposed that the Board ask for a local bill to be passed regarding the newly proposed fire district lines.

Chairman Hawkins encouraged the Fireman=s Association to be sure that the fire district lines are where they should be. The Commissioners may take action regarding fire districts at their next meeting, February 17, 1999.


Chairman Hawkins adjourned the meeting at approx. 8:05 p.m.




Elizabeth W. Corn, Clerk Grady Hawkins, Chairman