The Durham County Board of Commissioners paved the way this week for the county to take over the Parkwood Volunteer Fire Department.
A unanimous move by the commissioners created 15 full-time positions in the county fire department to transition the 15 full-time employees employed by Parkwood. An estimated cost of $268,000 for salary and benefits will be transferred from the Parkwood Fire District Fund to help cover the new county employees.
Parkwood is the second volunteer fire department to be taken over by the county in two years, with the Bethesda Volunteer Fire Department being absorbed by the county in 2013.
Both moves were spurred by financial concerns. A 2013 audit uncovered cash-flow problems at Parkwood.
In both cases, too, the volunteer fire department asked to be absorbed by the Durham County Fire & Rescue. In Parkwood’s case, the president of the department board of directors asked for the takeover in a letter dated Oct. 29.
The public will see no change in service as a result of the takeover, according to the county staff.
The 15 full-time positions created in the county include two assistant chief positions, six fire captain positions, six fire driver positions and one firefighter position.
Parkwood will be under the direction of Emergency Management Director Jeff Batten.
The move by the commissioners transfers the $268,000 from the Parkwood Fire District Fund to the county general fund.
County official worries about the health of Parkwood date back more than a year. At the county’s request, the city Fire Department has been backing up all Parkwood calls.
Concerns about Parkwood led to the ouster of Chief William Colley and a county takeover of its ambulance service, downsizing the department from 27 employees to 14.
Bethesda asked for its takeover in a letter from its board of directors dated Feb. 28. 2013 saying the department could no longer make ends meet.
Parkwood and Bethesda cover portions of southern and eastern Durham County outside the city limits, including portions of Research Triangle Park.
County officials said Bethesda was hurt by a cap of 10 cents per $100 of assessed property value that forced it to work in a city-like district but with a limited budget. The department was also responding to calls in Raleigh, which paid for services.
Bethesda ran a deficit of $214,536 deficit in 2010-11, taking in $2.2 million and spending $2.4 million.