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Stokes County refuses to increase Rural Hall Fire Department's fire tax

November 23, 2014/Charlotte Evans
  Rural Hall officials continue discussions with Stokes County over the Rural Hall Fire Department’s (RHFD) budget shortfall caused by Stokes County refusal to fund this year’s one-cent fire tax increase to 9.6 cents. Stokes County also failed to increase payments to RHFD last year when the fire department’s tax rate increased to 8.6 cents, continuing to pay them the county-wide fire tax rate, 6.5 cents.
  According to Town Manager Frank James, Stokes County has made up the funding in other ways in the past to make up the difference. He noted that typically the fire tax is the same for all three entities the fire department serves: the town, Forsyth County and Stokes County.
  James shared currently Stokes County fire calls provide only 9% of RHFD’s revenue while representing 21% of the fire calls. In contrast, the town of Rural Hall provides 41% of the revenue with 25% of the calls and Forsyth County provides 50% of the revenue with 54% of the calls. He noted that the number of calls answered in Stokes County is not in ratio to what Stokes County is paying.
  Stokes County residents living in the Rural Hall Fire District enjoy a Class Five insurance rating, which results in lower homeowner’s insurance premiums. Most of Stokes County's fire departments possess a Class 9-S insurance rating, which results in much higher annual premiums for the homeowner.
  In a scenario in which the Rural Hall Fire District no longer existed, those Stokes County residents would revert to the Stokes County Class 9-S rating and would experience an increase in their homeowner’s policies as high as $85 annually for a $100,000 home, according to quotes acquired from Nationwide Insurance Agent Steve Hill, who noted that there is no flat rate for every homeowner, each policy is different based on many factors.
  For a Stokes County resident in the Rural Hall Fire District, had the Stokes County Commissioners approved the one-cent fire tax increase, that $100,000 house would have endured a fire tax bill of $10. 
  Indications are Stokes County will include a fire tax increase next year, but it may not be at the current rate. James has expressed that negotiations need to begin right away with Stokes County to resolve budgetary issues on a long-term basis.
  According to minutes from the Stokes County Commissioners meetings in July, commissioners did not approve the increased tax rate due to concerns that it would set the precedent for Stokes County fire departments to request more money, of which Stokes County falls short.
  Despite not fully funding RHFD, Stokes County provided 100 percent of the funding for the reprogramming of RHFD’s radios for the new VIPER system, which saved the fire department around $23,000. The reprogramming will allow RHFD to communicate properly with Stokes County, once those fire departments switch over to the system.
  Stokes County Manager Rick Morris could not be reached for comment.

RHABA presents $5,237 check to Rural Hall Elementary School

November 19, 2014/Charlotte Evans
RHABA

Manufactured home causes concern in Rural Hall neighborhood

November 13, 2014/Charlotte Evans
  During the public comment period of Monday night’s Town Council meeting in Rural Hall, Sommerdale Court resident Bill Forrest expressed his concern about a manufactured home installed on Sommerdale Court in the Beechcliff subdivision.
  Initially, Forrest and fellow residents believed the home to be a double-wide mobile home which was the cause of his concern.
  Town Manager Frank James shared with the council several residents from the area had visited town hall a few weeks ago expressing concern related to this issue. At that time, James held a conference call with Chris Murphy at the City-County Planning Board (CCPB). Murphy explained to the group all proper permits were attained and the house is actually a manufactured home.
  From those conversations, James requested Town Attorney D. Barrett Burge to research the issue and render an opinion.
  Attorney Burge informed the town officials “non-stick built homes” are governed by the Unified Development Ordinances (UDO) which Rural Hall adopted many years ago.
  Burge related that the structures commonly referred to as double-wides are broken down into two categories: Homes manufactured in accordance with HUD standards and homes manufactured under state code. The latter being allowed to be installed anywhere a stick built home may be found.
  Burge informed Forrest and the council that some structures can be prevented from installation, but not by any governmental activity. Restrictive covenants can be crafted to prevent manufactured housing of any type.
  “We thought it was a double-wide home at first, but it’s a state-approved modular home”, Forrest stated, adding “Everything’s fine now.”
  The council expressed its regret for not being able to assist in this situation.
  Proceeding with the meeting, James shared that he continues talks with Stokes County regarding Rural Hall Fire Department’s budget shortfall. James plans to speak with the Stokes County Manager in hopes of deterring a shortfall once again in the upcoming budget.
  James informed the council that Stokes County paid 100 percent of the cost of reprogramming the fire department’s radios for the new VIPER system recently, which enables Rural Hall firefighters to communicate properly with Stokes County departments. The cost of the reprogramming fell around $22,000.
In other news:
  The Town Council extended congratulations to town receptionist Marlena Lawson on receiving recent awards through her college fraternity: International Fraternity of Delta Sigma Pi Mid-Atlantic and Southern Province Director of the Year.
  James stated “I’m always excited to see staff receive recognition for their efforts … we’re very excited for her.”
  Mayor Williams noted the town will honor all employees this Friday during the annual Employee Appreciation Luncheon, to which he will be unable to attend, as he plans to attend the groundbreaking for the Northern Beltway. Governor Pat McCrory is expected to attend as well.
  Mayor Williams announced:
  Rural Hall will honor its volunteer firefighters on Saturday, November 22 at the Brookstown Inn in Winston-Salem. “This is a small token of appreciation for all they do throughout the year.”
  The annual Christmas Tree Lighting, cohosted by the town and Rural Hall Elementary School, will be held on Thursday, December 4 at 6 PM at Town Hall.
  The annual Christmas parade will be held on Sunday, December 7 at 2:30 PM. Entries continue to filter in ensuring another successful parade. This year, an inclement weather date has been set for Sunday, December 14.
  Mayor Williams shared with the council that the Rural Hall 10K, sponsored by the Rural Hall Area Business Association (RHABA), raised $5,000 for Rural Hall Elementary School. He also praised Steve Hill for heading up the event on behalf of RHABA.


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