The town of Garner faces some tough choices when it comes to resolving ongoing funding concerns for the Garner Fire Department.
But it’s important that Garner stop kicking the can down the road.
The town already funds slightly more than half the cost of the fire department’s operation to the tune of about $4.4 million each year. Wake County has already signaled its desire to get out of the firefighting business. And as towns grow, there is becoming less and less territory that falls outside someone’s town limits. That means the county is going to grow less and less interested in putting its funds into the fire service.
In the meantime, the Garner Fire Department sits there in need of more manpower, newer and better equipment and other long-term needs that are going unmet.
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One thing’s certain. No one wants to get caught in a situation where they need the fire department to respond and the firefighters can’t get there. We don’t really believe that’s what Wake County commissioners and Garner council members want, either.
But as Garner grows, it will get ever more difficult to meet the needs of residents without a sound financial base to support the work. The Fire Department puts out your fires for free, but the people who work there don’t all work for free. And the people who sell fire trucks don’t sell them for nothing, either.
Garner, to its credit, has tried to bridge the growing gap as much as it can, but the town’s resources are limited and it’s just not that easy to bring the fire department under the town’s umbrella.
For the past few years, during budget negotiations, council members have expressed a desire to study the need in more detail in an effort to build a plan to supplement funding for the fire department. That call has been reiterated this year.
It seems prudent to us that council members follow up on that desire this year so that the fire department members and the people they serve can have a clearer picture of just how the department’s funding woes can be overcome.
That study ought to include firefighters, both paid and volunteer, along with town finance staff and other administrators, council members and Wake County Commissioner Matt Calabria, who represents Garner.
The answers for finding long-term stability for the fire department are not easy to find. There are several options, each with pros and cons associated with them. It is quite possible, to be honest, that whatever the best answer is will include a healthy list of bitter-tasting pills.
But kicking the can down the road on this issue won’t make the pills taste any better when they do go down.