MINT HILL – The Mint Hill Fire Department won’t come under the town’s umbrella until July 2020, Fire Chief David Leath told town commissioners during an April 9 budget workshop.
Leath said a variety of mainly administrative items, like transferring tags and titles for vehicles, couldn’t be completed in time for the next fiscal year.
“That will not happen this year,” Leath said. “That is to no fault of either side. We came under time restraints of getting it finalized and done by July 1. We will make sure we get it done by July 1 of next year.”
It was announced at the Dec. 13 commission meeting that Mint Hill would take the department under its umbrella after the fire department board had voted to turn it over to the town. The department is a combination of paid and volunteer personnel.
The Mint Hill Fire Department currently provides fire protection and EMS services to the town and surrounding areas through contracts with Mint Hill and Mecklenburg County. It covers approximately 40 square miles and 30,000 residents. The department responded to around 5,000 service calls last year.
Mint Hill funds 24 full-time fire department employees and other costs, such as uniforms and training and one new piece of equipment every five years.
The town budgets $2.4 million for the Mint Hill Fire Department and $865,000 for EMS, but all of the money for EMS services is reimbursed back to the town through billing.
Leath asked the board at the workshop to add three firefighters to the force. The total cost, which includes salaries ($49,150), uniforms ($1,000) and turnout gear ($4,500), is almost $164,000 a year.
“That would be one per shift up at the station on (Hwy) 218,” Leath said. “That will put four on two trucks. It will give us eight firefighters on every shift.”
Police Chief Tim Ledford is also asking for additional personnel for the police department. He wants to hire four new patrol officers and a civilian crime analyst. The cost, including benefits, would be $54,000 per patrol officer. The civilian crime analyst would cost the town $66,500, which includes benefits.
Ledford said adding four new patrol officers would enhance response times, reduce overtime and increase officer safety. There have been instances in the past that required a multiple officer response but the department did not have officers available. The department currently has four vacancies.
“What we are doing now is pulling officers from other shifts to work overtime to make sure we have adequate coverage on the street,” Ledford said. “We want to reduce overtime and reduce the stress on existing officers. The reason we are in the position we are in now is we are trying to fill existing positions at this time. Once we get those positions in place and get those four new officers in place, it would be a buffer in the future if we lose officers to other opportunities. We are having an issue trying to retain qualified officers. Since the enhancements we received last year, we have seen a reduction in people that are leaving. That has helped us retain our current officers.”
The crime analyst would study, identify and report patterns of criminal activity and suggest strategies to stop them.
“We would be able to better deploy the resources we have to prevent crime,” he said.
Ledford is also asking the town to purchase nine new vehicles – four for the new patrol officers ($236,000) and five ($295,000) to replace aging vehicles. Ledford wants technology upgrades, too, like body cams and a video server ($117,000).
The fiscal year starts July 1.