The Elkin Fire Department continues its recruitment efforts for more volunteer firefighters, as was reported at last week’s meeting of the Elkin Board of Commissioners.
Since announcing its shortage of firefighters and need for more volunteers, who get paid part-time for hours of training and on the job, Chief Mike Morton said the department has received two applications from interested persons.
“That is a 20-percent increase and we hope to draw more,” he reported, adding the department has had one incomplete application and is hoping the applicant will work to complete it.
Some of the marketing efforts being used by the fire department include posters and flyers which will be put up around town, and Morton said a spring promotion drive is being planned.
“During the board retreat, Dr. Whitman [commissioner] asked for out-of-the-box ideas,” said the chief, who explained he is going to present those to Town Manager John Holcomb and then after working with the town manager, will present them to the board.
He also is pursuing two grants to help with the recruiting and retention efforts – one being a federal grant for firefighter retention and the other through the International Society of Fire Chiefs to assist with recruiting.
“We continue to seek out individuals within our town and in neighboring communities,” he said.
Capt. Theresa Knops elaborated on the spring promotional event being planned by the fire department, part of which includes a recruitment drive on social media.
She said 222 Public House has agreed to allow tent cards to be placed on the tables at the restaurant, and there will be posters going up at target locations.
“We had identified 18 to 35 year olds as our target market,” Knops said. “So posters will go places like 222, the gym, and the rec center.”
She said members of the fire department are speaking to area employers as well.
“This will all culminate at the Yadkin Valley Pumpkin Festival with a firefighter agility demonstration,” Knops said.
Another part of the promotion will be a community open house at the fire station scheduled for Sept. 11.
Commissioner Bob Horton asked if there is any effort being made to recruit the senior population who may have more time to volunteer.
The chief said there are uses for people in that demographic for education and fire safety efforts as well as being trained as car seat technicians, but people volunteering for those activities still do not count toward the number of firefighters on the roster.
“But they do help so we don’t overwork the folks who do count on the roster,” he said.
Mayor Lestine Hutchens said in talking with her colleagues across the state, this issue of being shorthanded of firefighters is not a localized problem. “It is a problem we need to figure out how to solve,” she said.
In other town business:
• A request for an alcohol waiver for the fourth-annual Elkin Roots Music Festival in Elkin Municipal Park May 14 was made. Judy Buckner of the sponsoring Elkin Valley Fiddlers made the request, noting the group has its North Carolina one-day ABC permit for beer and wine vending at the festival. Also, Elkin Police Chief Monroe Wagoner signed off on the request. The motion to approve the waiver was approved unanimously, 4-0. Commissioner Dr. Skip Whitman was unable to attend the meeting, and formally had been excused from the meeting by the board.
• The Elkin Public Library, following approval from the town commissioners during the meeting, will be erecting a Little Free Library box in Elkin Municipal Park. The program is a national nonprofit that includes an online map where people can find the locations of Little Libraries set up. The idea is to have a free book exchange where books are able to be taken home and read and returned, or replaced with another book by the person interested in reading one in the Little Library. The Elkin Public Library staff will help monitor the Little Free Library at the park, which will be located near the flower garden and is decorated in theme with the Elkin Valley Trails Association.
• The commissioners approved two event ordinances which will assist in making the process of shutting down streets maintained by the North Carolina Department of Transportation easier going forward. The events involving U.S. 21 and N.C. 268 are the Light-Up Night Parade and the Christmas Parade. Having the ordinances in place will mean DOT will keep them on hand and approval won’t be needed every year by organizers, explained Wagoner.
• The commissioners approved an engineering contract for the raw water line project which will provide a pipeline from the reservoir to the water treatment plant and repair an existing 24-inch line which is exposed at the creek. The project will be paid for with a $1.7 million loan, but approval of the contract was needed so engineers could move forward with the drawings for the work.
• The 2016-17 fiscal year budget calendar also was reviewed during the meeting. All special appropriation requests by outside organizations must be to the town no later than April 1. The board’s first budget work session has been scheduled for April 18 at 5:30 p.m. with department heads. A second budget work session is slated on May 2 at 5:30 p.m. with the town manager/finance director. If a third work session is needed, it will be May 16.
The proposed budget and budget message will be made public on May 27, with a public hearing on the budget and approval set for the June 13 town board meeting.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.