The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

September 21, 2013

VFD feels impact of fire levy failure

Tina Alvey
Register-Herald Reporter

LEWISBURG — With an annual budget that tips the scales at nearly half-a-million dollars, the Lewisburg Volunteer Fire Department is one of Greenbrier County’s healthiest, from a financial standpoint.

But the impact of the failure of a countywide fire levy earlier this year is resonating with the Lewisburg fire company, which stood to gain an estimated $237,500 if Greenbrier County voters had approved the levy.

That impact was brought home at Tuesday’s city council meeting, when the VFD’s appeal for $275,000 to lease a new rural tanker truck was rejected. According to Fire Chief Wayne Pennington, Lewisburg’s share of the fire levy funds would have been applied to the new tanker, if the levy had been approved.

The fire levy was defeated by more than a two-to-one margin in a special election staged in March.

The new tanker would have replaced a 1985 model the city now has in service.

Pennington explained the rural tanker is needed to meet the fire service requirements of a portion of the Lewisburg fire district that lies outside city limits and does not have municipal water or fire hydrants. Around half of the Lewisburg VFD’s calls come from outside the corporate limits.

Pennington said he would redouble his efforts to solicit donations for the department from residents in the fire district’s rural areas in an attempt to finance the needed tanker.

County government does not contribute any funding to the Lewisburg VFD.

City council did approve a $325,000 expenditure Tuesday for a seven-year lease on a replacement reserve pumper for the fire deprtment, as well as moving another $100,000 from the Rainy Day Fund to the General Fund to apply toward the eventual construction of a new fire house.

The chief said he expects to take delivery of the new pumper, which will replace  the department’s current 1980 model reserve pumper, in about nine months.

Pennington noted Oct. 7-11 is Fire Prevention Week, during which time he and the city’s other firefighters will make presentations at Lewisburg Elementary School and several pre-schools in town, reaching more than 900 children with important fire prevention information.

He said he also plans to present information on such topics as the danger of smoking in bed to the residents of the city’s senior citizen apartment complexes during Fire Prevention Week.

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Other allocations made at Tuesday’s council meeting included:

- $96,402 for three Ford Explorers for the Police Department;

- $16,000 for two snow plows for the Public Works Department; and

- $20,000 — half of which is grant-funded — to rebuild a mini-park on East Washington Street.

Council also approved $750 merit bonuses for city employees and a $103,000 contract with Greenbrier Excavating and Paving Inc., for street paving.

— E-mail: talvey@register-herald.com