Fort Mill Times

To Fort Mill woman, lack of firehouse ‘a scary situation’

Members of the Tega Cay and Riverview Fire Departments fly the flag above Tege Cay Drive last Memorial Day. Riverview Chief Sam Leslie said his department is opposed to York County contracting out fire protection to Tega Cay.
Members of the Tega Cay and Riverview Fire Departments fly the flag above Tege Cay Drive last Memorial Day. Riverview Chief Sam Leslie said his department is opposed to York County contracting out fire protection to Tega Cay. Special to The Fort Mill Times

As they await word on how money will be spent on fire protection in their area, the Riverview Volunteer Fire Department has “very serious concerns” with the proposal that doesn’t involve them.

Chief Sam Leslie said his department is opposed to York County contracting out fire protection to Tega Cay, rather than stick with the ongoing plan for another Riverview station.

“We would like to clarify the facts as well as go on record that we have a number of very serious concerns about the proposal and are opposed to the county contracting out fire protection,” Leslie said.

“The service area in question is, and always has been, in the Riverview fire district,” Leslie said. “These residents pay a special tax for that fire protection, just like everyone else in our district.”

On Sept. 6, York County Council asked for more time and discussion to evaluate two options. One, a new Riverview station, would culminate two years and money already spent in that direction. Another involves the Tega Cay Fire Department, where the county could contract with Tega Cay for firefighters to serve the relatively small area Riverview is looking to better serve.

Several residents spoke in favor of a new Riverview station, and against the Tega Cay plan, when York County Council held a public hearing Sept. 19. Council took no votes. Another public hearing will be held after the county public safety committee reviews the options.

One resident questioned what the county would get when its contract with Tega Cay expired except another contract, compared to the more permanent new Riverview station. Another resident said he “basically lost the fire insurance” on his house a few years back when an ISO review, used to set insurance rates and based on distance to fire stations or service, but thought the issue would be resolved when he learned of plans for a new station.

“It looked like my problem was solved and now it’s come back to haunt me,” he said.

Another resident, Karen McNally, said largely wooded areas being discussed are a concern for fire service, especially given drought in recent years. She knows from personal experience how dangerous fires can be.

“I’ve had one house burn down, completely,” she said. “I was a single mom with four kids. Lost it. My cat was burned in the fire. This issue coming out is definitely a scary situation. If you lost something like that, you never get over it.”

Leslie, who has been with his department 42 years, asked the county to stick with its initial plan.

“We’ve been held up and held up,” he said. “And cost of construction is going up daily. We need this fire station to protect a bunch of people.”

Tega Cay approached the county with its plan, which the city sees as a potential cost savings. The city could serve the Youngblood, Vineyard, McKee and Bessbrook roads area with a few more firefighters the county could pay for, rather than allocating money for a full station.

The larger issue dates back five years, when an ISO change left many residents outside the radius of acceptable fire service. Riverview set up a temporary station, basically a place to park a truck in the S.C. 160 and Zoar Road area, three years ago. Leslie said that move was understood as a “stopgap measure until a permanent solution to serve that area could be completed.”

Riverview, which has its own special tax district, and the county purchased 141 Grant Farm Road more than two years ago. Plans for a new station are complete and ready for permitting. It just requires final Council approval.

Leslie said he hadn’t heard about the Tega Cay proposal until it came up at a recent Council meeting. His department, as of Saturday, was “still without any specific information.”

“Meanwhile, we continue to pay rent and utilities on a temporary station that has an expired lease,” he said. “Our position is that the second station for the Riverview fire department is required and will afford a long-term solution with quality fire protection,” he said.

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