A recent briefing of Cheraw Town Council had residents in the Cash area talking about fire lines. They weren’t talking about fire lines established to stop a wild fire; they were talking about the kind of line one draws in the sand to establish territory.
The recently established ISO rate for Cheraw’s Fire Department, level four, has meant lower insurance premiums for many homeowners in town. That rating, according to Cheraw Mayor Andy Ingram, may also be extended to cover a 5 mile radius from the Cheraw Fire Department. Unfortunately, things are not that simple, according to town officials.
The problem comes in determining who is considered the primary responder for county residents just south of town, specifically Country Club Acres and the Deerfield neighborhood. Some years ago, said Ingram, when the Cash Rural Fire Department was established, Chesterfield County Council marked Juniper Creek, just past the entrance to Cheraw State Park on Highway 52 South, as the cut off point for Cheraw.
The problem is those neighborhoods are within the five mile radius, giving them the opportunity to have lower ISO rates. The rub comes, said Ingram, in the knowledge that they are designated as residents of the Cash Rural Fire Department, which has an ISO rating of nine.
Ingram said the issue is further complicated because of a contract signed several years ago between former Cheraw Mayor Scott Hunter and Chesterfield County Council. That 10-year contract calls for county council to pay the Town of Cheraw $200,000 for fire protection to county residents living outside Cheraw’s city limits.
To begin with, said Ingram, if county council is not willing to renegotiate the current contract “the deal is off the table and our hands are tied.” If the contract cannot be renegotiated, the town can do nothing to lower the insurance rates for those neighborhoods. But even that’s not the whole story, said Ingram.
When it comes to sharing the cost of fire protection, “The county is not paying their fair share. They have a sweet deal and they know it.”
According to information provided to Cheraw Town Council, by John L. Melton, chief of the Cheraw Fire Department, there are 5,933 structures that fall under the protection of the Cheraw Fire Department. Of those, 3,104 are within town limits. That leaves 2,829 structures in rural, or county territory.
Ingram said the county is getting a tremendous deal because they should be paying much more for the amount of protection offered. “Right now, the total budget for the Cheraw Fire Department stands at $789,179.”
“It’s simple math,” said Ingram. “Of the total number of structures, 52 percent are in town and 48 percent are in the county. That means Cheraw should be covering 410,373 of that budget and the county should be paying more like $378,806. That makes $200,000 a sweetheart of a deal for the county.”
Ingram said Cheraw Town Council plans to approach Chesterfield County Council about negotiations as soon as possible and will be requesting a spot on the county’s agenda for February. At press time Tuesday, county had not yet officially approved that request. The next meeting of county council is scheduled for 9 a.m. Feb. 6 at the Chesterfield County Courthouse.
In other news, Cheraw Town Council has passed the final reading of an ordinance regarding limitations on signs within zoning areas that allow for home occupations. Until now, the ordinance simply limited the number of signs displayed on the property to one.
The ordinance currently reads: “There shall be no change in the outside appearance of the building or premises, or other visible evidence of the conduct of such home occupation other than one non-illuminated sign which shall not exceed one and a half square feet and must be attached to the dwelling.”
Council also voted unanimously to limit the amount of time an employee may request off work, in addition to earned vacation time, to two weeks.
— Staff Writer Karen Kissiah can be reached by calling 843-537-5261, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.