York County and Tega Cay leaders are taking a little time to see if a partnership might best serve the Riverview Volunteer Fire Department coverage area.
Riverview has a special fire tax district to help fund its service. In recent years the department asked York County Council for money for a new station. Tax district revenue can repay capital costs, fire department officials said.
The tax district has a $1.84 million budget this year. Included is $1.2 million from a loan and $336,880 in generated tax revenue. On Sept. 6, Council deferred the second of three needed readings authorizing the financing agreement for the new station. The reason? A proposal from Tega Cay to serve the growing area with funding from the county, at an overall savings.
“It needs to be studied,” said York County Councilwoman Christi Cox.
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Council advertised a public hearing on the new fire station for Sept. 19. Now Council wants to use that meeting to detail plans for fire service, with a public hearing later. If anyone shows to offer input Sept. 19, Council will allow it.
“Whenever we have an advertised public hearing and somebody shows up to speak, I think we ought to hear them,” county Councilman Chad Williams said.
County Councilman Michael Johnson said Riverview has been working toward a new station for some time, in response to community growth within its boundaries. He would like to see a firm plan soon, he said.
“We’ve got a fire station that we bought land, we spent some money on an architect,” he said. “I do want to know where we are on a timeline of either telling them yes or no, and we’re going to go with the Tega Cay proposal or not.”
Charlie Funderburk, Tega Cay’s city manager, said the partnership could be fairly simple. The county could fund three full-time firefighters within the city department, and the city would cover the growing area where Riverview is looking to expand its service. Funderburk said the city reached out to the county about “saving a few million dollars” by working together.
“It’s predominantly the Vineyard Road area which we can quickly get to with our staff,” Funderburk said.
“We are only requesting the county fund three firefighters for the city in exchange for that service. It should be a healthy savings for the county while improving fire protection and life-saving services to the few homes in that area.”
County Manager Bill Shanahan said meetings with the city, Riverview and the tax district board will take place prior to Council’s Sept. 19 meeting. The decision to authorize funding for the new station was sent to the county’s public safety committee.
“The goal right now is to meet with the fire tax district and discuss the request that was made by Tega Cay and from there we’ll be able to provide the public safety committee the right information,” Shanahan said.
Not all details, Shanahan told Council, are in place.
“It’s going to take a discussion with these folks,” he said. “They’ve been working on it a while. We’ve got to throw out what the ideas are.”
Funderburk said he appreciates the county looking into the idea which, from the city viewpoint, serves the area well.
“It’s a better use of the taxpayers’ money by realizing this significant savings while at the same time enhancing public safety in that area,” Funderburk said. “We know there are multiple things the county has to consider.”