ARCHER LODGE — The town’s bravest are looking to safeguard the area for another 5 years after obtaining approval from council members to provide fire protection services within town limits.
At their March 11 regular meeting, town councilmen voted to continue contracting Archer Lodge Fire Department to serve the emergency needs of area residents. The first contract was granted by the council in 2010 after the town’s incorporation.
Property owners are charged seven cents per $100 valuation, a fee that mirrors the Johnston County fire tax paid by non-Archer Lodge residents living within the town’s Fire District. Archer Lodge residents also pay an additional eight cents per $100 tax rate for other town services.
Under the terms of the agreement, the town’s involvement solely lies in collecting and turning over tax revenue to the fire department. It’s then up to the fire officials to develop their own budget in which to purchase equipment and train personnel.
Fire Chief Phillip Driver attended the meeting and is expected to present the town’s endorsement to his board of directors on March 21 for a final review and approval.
“We have a good working relationship with the town,” Driver said. “Nothing is going to change for the residents. They’re still going to have the same level of service that they’ve always had from us.”
Part of the new contract calls for yearly good faith discussions between members of the town and fire department to review budgetary issues for the coming fiscal year. Mayor Mike Gordon and Councilman Jeff Barnes, both retired fire department members, have volunteered to serve as the town’s liaisons.
“Their budget is open to the public,” explained Gordon. “It will help us to see how they are operating and if in a bind, need some help.”
The town does not set aside specific funds for the fire department but the mayor said he believes their budget is strong. If the need arises, the town may be able to assist with resources and guidance in researching grant opportunities.
The town turned over $175, 247.57 in tax revenue to the Archer Lodge Fire Department during the 2011-2012 fiscal year.
“The money is used to protect the community and its citizens,” said Driver. “It also provides fire education training and goes toward the purchase of equipment and gear.”
Council members noted at the meeting that they have enjoyed a mutually respectful partnership with the fire department. Fire taxes have not been increased in nearly a decade.
The fire department serves a six-mile radius around the area, including those living in Wilder’s Township. Established in 1958, they have 43 volunteer and paid part-time members. Their station on Covered Bridge Road is staffed seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and volunteer members respond to calls after hours. Response times average 4 to 5 minutes, said Driver.
“We are very pleased from the town side to have a good working relationship with the new chief,” said Gordon. “A majority of the fire department members live in town limits and this just works out good for everyone,” he said.