YORK -- The York County Council took a first step on Monday toward extending a fire service agreement with the city of York.
Council members voted unanimously to approve a five-year contract with the option to renew another five years.
If approved by the York City Council, the contract would start in 2010. York would be paid $74,000 a year annually to provide fire service to areas outside city limits and help the Hickory Grove, Bullock Creek, Sharon and McConnells fire departments -- a service provided since 1983. The price could fluctuate some because it will be tied to the Consumer Price Index.
The contract also stipulates that at least three firefighters would need to respond to any structure fire outside city limits between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Both the county and city would have to give two-year notice to end the agreement.
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At recent city council meetings, York council members have stressed the importance of renewing a contract with the county. Last September, the city also wrote a letter to the county asking to discuss the extension.
Mayor Eddie Lee said it's important for the safety of homes.
"We serve a region. That means beyond our city limits," Lee said. "So we're a regional fire department. "I think that most people understand that."
York's interim city manager, Charles Helms, said the city received the contract Monday morning and must review it before weighing an approval at the June 3 council meeting.
Lee said the agreement must be carefully reviewed.
A debate occurred during the last round of talks. The York Fire Department, with a budget more than $500,000, received about $20,000 a year from the county under the previous contract as well as the use of a county-owned fire engine, ladder truck, tanker and grass truck. Because half the York Fire Department's calls are outside city limits, city officials said they should get more money from the county.
Ultimately, they ended up settling on $74,000 per year for two years.
Since then, County Councilman Joe Cox has been pushing for fire substations. The substations would be run by volunteers in rural areas around York. They would provide more service to rural areas and remove the dependence on York in case the city wants more money in the future.
Cox said he voted to approve the contract Monday with hopes that it will give the county time to get substations built.
"Once we get the (fire safety) ratings in those areas from the substations, then we can make a decision about what we're going to do, either stay with York or not stay with York," he said. "That will give us an option that should have been done five years ago."
Whether the substations are approved will depend on how budget talks go this year, Cox said.