Dollar’s bill to help Wake County fire station fails in rare tied vote. But could it come back?

Members of the Fairview community attend a Wake County Fire Commission meeting on Aug. 16, 2018, to learn the fate of Fairview Rural Fire Station No. 2.
Members of the Fairview community attend a Wake County Fire Commission meeting on Aug. 16, 2018, to learn the fate of Fairview Rural Fire Station No. 2. ajohnson@newsobserver.com

A local bill backed by a rural Wake County fire department failed to pass in a rare 52-52 state House vote Wednesday afternoon.

Rep. Nelson Dollar, who lost his re-election bid this November, filed House Bill 1110 last week to give the Ten Ten Fire District more autonomy after Wake County recommended closing one of the district’s two fire stations and moving the service it provided to a proposed fire station in nearby Garner.

The vote was primarily along political party lines with a handful of Republicans, including Reps. John Adcock and Chris Malone, siding with Democrats against Dollar and the bill.

Wake County was “fully in opposition” to the bill, said Assistant Wake County Manager Chris Dillon.

“It’s nice we are at the holidays because what you are seeing is an embarrassing family conflict being played out in front of you,” he told Dollar and other lawmakers during a Monday committee meeting. “You should not be the judge and arbitrator. The county will deal with our issues internally.”

The original version of the bill would have allowed the Ten-Ten Fire District to keep the money raised by the fire district in the district. And it would have required the county to contract with the fire department for fire services.

Fairview is considered a donor district, meaning part of the money raised by its fire district property tax goes to departments with less property value.

A revised version of the bill, presented to legislators Wednesday morning, would have required the county to maintain the current level of service and type of fire protection in the Ten Ten district. And the county would have had to approve the fire department’s budget as long as the request was less than what the fire district raised through the fire tax.

It’s that second part that gave some legislators pause during the bill debate.

“What are you going to tell your folks when they come to you and ask you why they can’t do this same thing?” Rep. Darren Jackson asked legislators. “Why they can’t start mandating to their county commissioners what they do at the local fire station? ... I am really surprised a Republican majority would consider this type of legislation.”

The split vote means the bill will likely not return to the legislature until next calendar year. If a legislator who voted no changes his or her mind the bill could be brought up again, or it could be put into an unrelated bill.

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Anna Johnson covers Raleigh and Wake County for the News & Observer. She has covered city government, crime and business for North Carolina newspapers since 2012. Reach her at 919-829-4807 or ajohnson@newsobserver.com.