If at all possible I plan to be at Committee Meeting today at 3:00PM in room 423 of the Legislative Offfice building (300 N. Salisbury Street, Raleigh). It’s a terribly inconvenient time for me. I have no vacation time left this year, so the time I take off from work will have to be made up on evenings and weekends. Plus, part of my job is keeping cloud computing services running 24/7. If there is an incident in progress, I simply won’t be able to break away. But I’ll do my best.
Why? Because the lives of my neighbors are literally at stake. At the community meeting this summer I heard testimony from several people who said that if it weren’t for the rapid response of the Fairview firefighters, their child or their spouse would have died. The county staff’s attempt this summer to shut down our fire station would have increased response times for most our community members, in some cases dramatically. During the struggle to keep our fire station open, we learned that our county leaders had previously voted on and adopted a criteria for closing a fire station. Some of you may remember that I showed up at the August fire commission meeting holding a sign that said: “Criteria: No Decrease in Service Quality“. I sat on the front row where Fire Services Director Nick Campasano could see me clearly holding that sign.
What happened next was chilling. Director Campasano looked me and the hundreds of my fellow citizens in the eye and told us that the criteria no longer applied. He was Ok with lowering our service quality. He was Ok with higher response times up to a horrible 11 minutes. That’s when I knew for sure that we can’t rely on our county leadership to protect us. Their priorities are different than ours. Preserving the quality of our emergency services is not their goal. Moving our money out of our fire district and facilitating the expansion of municipalities is their goal.
You can compare our situation to someone who has allowed a stranger to move into his home, in exchange for services and a small amount of rent money. He wakes up in the middle of the night to find the renter standing over his bed with an axe raised over his head! The homeowner says “Excuse me! What are you doing?” and the renter says “Oh, never mind, go back to sleep, I’ll think about it some more before I try to chop off your head again.”
We are the homeowner in this story, and the county staff is like the renter who snuck up on us in the middle of the night with a weapon. They tried to shut down our local fire station! That’s a big, big deal! And they tried to do it as sneakily as possible, with no public input. It was only by accident that we found out in time to raise a hue and cry. They (Director Campasano and the others behind this) made no apologies and made no promises not to do it again. The fire commission and Commissioner Calabria made no effort to reinstate the “No Decrease in Service Quality Criteria”. All they promised to do was “study” things some more. Go back to sleep, don’t worry, they said. There have been no consequences for the brazen attempt to reduce our emergency services quality.
In real life, you would call the police if your renter attacked you, wouldn’t you? If the police refused to believe your story, you would at least evict the renter, wouldn’t you? That would be within your rights, wouldn’t it? That’s how I feel. That’s why I support HB1110, and ask for your support also. We need permanent protection for our fire department, and this bill is the first ray of hope I have seen from our government in this matter.