Failure to respond

As a taxpayer and business owner and former fire chief of Morrisville Fire and Rescue, I think it is time for clear accountability in public. 

Several years ago, the citizens of Morrisville Fire and Rescue District approved a tax-based fire district over the membership-based service.

For the most part calls are answered, as far as I can tell? The concern as a homeowner and business owner is that the service being provided does not live up to a number of basic standards — adequate staffing, trained staffing and coverage to realistically respond to the call volume of the district.

In the past several months, I have been aware of five to six calls where Morrisville Fire District was dispatched and no one from Morrisville Fire responded or arrived to the scene until the incident was well over. 

This is not an acceptable condition that can persist. Residents pay taxes and expect a call to 911 is going to result in a timely response.

I am publishing this in the local paper, so all district residents have a chance to know about the lack of response, because if you look at the paper it would seem Morrisville responds. That response may be one driver of a truck without any ability to pull a fire hose or work in a self-contained breathing apparatus. 

That is not safe for that one responder or those relying on the responder.

I don’t disparage anyone willing to come help in any capacity. The issue is having leadership in place that has a clear plan for covering the schedule 24/7/365. That is what taxes are paid to provide.

I also understand that initial first responder medical service has been cut to only respond to higher priority medical calls. I know those calls can add to call volume, but they also get you better connected with your potential higher priority calls before they happen.

If the fire board is not capable of developing or leading a plan and the chief is not able or doesn’t have time or resources to provide complete service, then it may be time to stop taxing us for no service or less than acceptable service.

I am asking for some serious accountability and a plan presented to the public on how this issue will be resolved.

Being one to offer solutions, here are a few: hire some responders, develop a schedule, merge your department with the rest of Polk County and remove ISO 5-6 from trucks until that certification can be met.

I am someone who has worked with limited resources. I do not direct this as a personal attack on those trying to serve the department. I appreciate their attempt to serve the district.

— Craig Jones, former Morrisville Fire Chief

Response from Morrisville Fire Protection District

In 2015, we did become a tax district by the vote of the citizens with a levy of $.30 per $100 of assessed valuation. This gives us a budget of around $110,000 per year. These funds are used mostly to maintain our fleet of 11 trucks at three stations and provide our volunteers with the necessary safety gear and training.

As of 2018, our tax rate is now only $0.2787. Unfortunately, this does not provide the funds necessary to staff even a single truck.

Our closest neighbor that is staffed and funded by property taxes is Ebenezer Fire Protection District, and they have a tax rate of nearly $0.90 and a budget of around $1.4 million.

Our district is entirely staffed by volunteers, as are most of our neighbors. While I am aware of calls that Morrisville did not have any volunteers available to respond, our average over the past year has been three Morrisville responders per emergency call.

I am not aware of any emergency call that has gone unanswered.

Our neighbors occasionally face the same issue, and we cover for them, as well. We have mutual aid agreements with all of our neighbors to ensure everyone gets the best service possible with the limited resources we have to work with and to ensure we have access to additional resources for larger emergencies, such as structure fires.

There have also been discussions of a countywide fire protection district. I support this goal. However, it will require a fair amount of legal work, public education and a public vote. I encourage anyone that feels strongly about this to reach out to your respective fire boards.

I appreciate your concern for the district and its citizens, and I am sorry that you feel we are not meeting your expectations.

In the past year, we have actually completed an ISO evaluation and were able to maintain our score. We will continue to provide the best service we can and strive to improve that service as much as possible with the resources we have available.

— Kirk Jones, Morrisville Fire Protection District fire chief

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