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Weedman expresses concern about location of city Fire Station 3

The Hendersonville City Council authorized the purchase of land on the northeast corner of Old Spartanburg Highway and Shepherd Street for Fire Station 3. The Hendersonville City Council authorized the purchase of land on the northeast corner of Old Spartanburg Highway and Shepherd Street for Fire Station 3.

Flat Rock mayor pro tem Nick Weedman says the proposed Hendersonville Fire Station 3 could encroach on the territory covered by Blue Ridge Fire & Rescue and further erode the rural department’s tax base.

The rural department's fire chief in an interview later confirmed that he is concerned about city annexation removing property from the Blue Ridge tax base, he welcomes a city fire station on his district's border because of the backup it would provide.

“I’ve had discussions with the chief of Blue Ridge Fire & Rescue and he expressed a lot of concern about plans to build a new fire station at Shepherd and Spartanburg Highway,” Weedman, who is running for unopposed for Flat Rock mayor, told municipal and county leaders at this month’s meeting of the Local Government Committee for Cooperative Action. “As the city continues to do satellite annex and take more property from Blue Ridge Fire, they raise taxes.”
Hendersonville City Manager John Connet, who was attending the LGCCA meeting, responded to Weedman’s remarks.
The city chose the site at Shepherd Street and Old Spartanburg Highway “to help with call volume on the south side of town,” he said. “Typically we’re seeing a tremendous number, plus nursing homes on that side of town. And when we have a lot of rain, that area does hold water and that part of the city is cut off from our other two stations without going on I-26 and coming around.”
Blue Ridge Fire & Rescue Chief Will Sheehan said he welcomes the new station on his fire district border, although he confirmed that city annexation of valuable commercial property reduces fire tax revenue.
“Having the station will benefit us by providing mutual aid closer,” he said. “We have a really good working relationship with Hendersonville and we work together well. It’s always better for us to have additional people close by.”
He confirmed Connet’s remarks about floods stranding city fire trucks.
“Probably in the last two or three years, every time there’s a major storm, they’ve actually brought a truck to our station so they could have ability for service” in the southeast corner of the city, Sheehan said.
If there is a problem, he added, it rises from satellite annexation, as Weedman pointed out. Under city policy, new commercial property — such as new hotels or restaurant at the Upward Road interchange — is annexed into the city in order to connect to city water and sewer service.
“I can tell you that the satellite annexation from Hendersonville does affect us on a budget level,” Sheehan said. “When new things come to our area, they’re being annexed and we’re not seeing any growth from our budget perspective. But we’re always happy to have the extra help close by.”
In fact, Sheehan expects a new city fire station would expand mutual aid coverage.
“Right now, they’re only coming into half our district,” he said. “Once that station is in place, we’ve already had preliminary talks to come in (to all the Blue Ridge district) for things like structure fires and major events.”
Weedman said the fire service overall warrants review.
“It seems to be like someone needs to take a look at the fire departments to make sure we have what we really need and we’re not overly providing fire protection with one department going in and encroaching on another,” adding that “the word encroach probably shouldn’t be used.”
If Blue Ridge’s tax base continues to shrink, tax increases may be inevitable. “Unless they find ways to cut costs, we’ll be on the receiving end of needing more money for fire protection,” Weedman said.