Conover Fire Department gets $3,000 boost

Conover Fire Department is losing $2,400 in mutual aide funding from Catawba County, but it will still see a $3,000 increase in revenue thanks to an increase in property values in the city’s rural fire district.

Conover Fire Chief Mark Hinson told Conover City Council that the mutual-aid funding, which at other times may have been called something else in the Catawba County budget, was in place since the 1960s. At the time the revenue stream was created, it assisted the county’s fire departments which were few in numbers, Hinson said.

“At that time, the limited number of fire departments established meant that a department may travel a greater distance within the county to provide aid or answer a call for an emergency situation,” Hinson said.

Catawba County stopped providing mutual aid funding for the county’s fire departments in its 2011-12 budget. However, Hinson explained that in the wake of property revlaution and the county’s decision to leave tax rates unchanged, Conover will see a $3,254 increase in revenue from the city’s fire tax district for the upcoming year.

“So it seems you are getting more money,” said Councilwoman Jan Herman, asking Hinson if that really meant more funds for the fire department or if there were other hidden costs.

Hinson said it is an increase, which means the total amount Conover’s rural fire tax district is supposed to generate this year is $8,100.

“We did come out on the good for this,” Hinson said.

The estimated $8,100 will join $150,000 Conover Fire Department has in an account being held in the department’s name within the county.

Hinson said this will be the third year the department has been accumulating the funds, which will eventually be used to make a capital purchase, such as a new fire truck or toward renovations of a building.

Hinson said Conover Fire Department’s main purpose is to protect the city’s residents first.

Councilman Joie Fulbright asked if Hinson thinks CFD receives “sufficient funds for the work the department does.”

“No,” Hinson said. “It’s mutual aid. We do receive (help) and get (assistance in return). We have several mutual-aid contracts. One particular reason we have that (contract) is if we rush out of the city (for an emergency on mutual aid), we are depleting our resources. On the return side, (other county fire departments) help us out. “

Hinson, as well as Conover’s attorney Martin Pannell, pointed out that because of the 1960s date of the original mutual-aid contract, there are certain terms that need to be updated and changed. Pannell suggested that Conover City Council approve this year’s contract, but encouraged Hinson to orchestrate a group of individuals to review this contract and prepare changes to be updated next year.

Conover Mayor Lee Moritz Jr. asked Hinson with the contract if any of the city’s residents were going to be at risk because of the mutual-aid agreement. Hinson said no and added that CFD’s first responsibility is city residents and its structures.

Conover City Council approved the contract 5-1, with Fulbright opposing.

“Know that we are on your side,” Fulbright told Hinson. “I’m going to vote ‘No’ because it’s time to take a look at the contract.”

In other business
Conover City Council awarded Conover Police Department with The Commission of Accreditation for Law Enforcement Award.

“It sets a standard of rules the city has to go by,” said Conover Mayor pro Tem Kyle Hayman. “It’s an accounting for (the police department’s) actions. It helps them document what they have to do, whether a traffic stop or call on a home. (The police department has) to meet certain standards to become accredited.”

Hayman said he went to Maryland in regards to Conover Police Department’s policies, which he said “was a real honor to go and answer questions from review board.”

The accreditation will last three years.

Conover Sanitation supervisor Keith Lynch gave a presentation to city council regarding the new electronics ban in the landfills, which went into effect July 1. Lynch said the sanitation department will be present the second Saturday of each month from 8 a.m. to noon at Conover Public Works to take residents’ electronics.

Council unanimously approved to enter into an agreement with eCycle Service to properly dispose of electronics dropped off by residents.

Lynch said services with eCycle are free, but the city does have to provide shrink wrap for large items to be properly carried off for disposal.

Hayman questioned the security protection of residents’ information that might drop off computers or cell phones to be disposed.

Lynch said that eCycle sends electronics through magnetic fields, which remove 99 percent of the information. However, if there is still information left on a device after at least three attempts from eCycle to clean off the hard drive, Lynch said the hard drive is removed and shredded. In addition, Lynch said if a resident wants to have a device cleaned, they have the option of contacting eCycle directly and paying a fee to have information removed.

Council unanimously approved a contract with the N.C. Department of Transportation to improve a bridge on N.C. 16 traveling over Interstate 40.

Conover City Manager Donald Duncan said the project can start in November and last 18 months.

Conover Public Works Director Jimmy Clark announced the city received a $50,000 grant from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources to conduct a sanitary sewer evaluation study in the city.

“The goal is to obtain information to pursue funding,” Clark said.

“Hopefully by the time we finish with the study, we can identify all areas needing to be repaired or replaced. We can have that (information) in hand and pursue more funding.”

Conover has to pay a $750 closing fee to N.C. DENR for the grant.

City Council unanimously approved to accept the grant, transfer funds to pay the closing fee and a contract with W.K. Dickson and Co. Inc. to conduct the sanitary sewer evaluation study.

Council unanimously approved to let Verizon Wireless Cellular retail store demolish and rebuild a building in the Canova Shopping Center, 509 10th St. NW. The building was the location of the former Domino’s Pizza in Conover, which closed in 2009.