Station 4

Huntersville Fire Station 4 on McIllwaine Road opened in 2018, and locations for Station 5 are being scouted, but personnel expenses also get top billing in the fire services budget request. file photo

HUNTERSVILLE – In response to the town’s population growth and ongoing and planned projects in all parts of town, the Huntersville Fire Department is fully engaged in the search for a site for its next fire station.

Officials with the department, which opened Station 4 on McIllwaine Road 11 months ago to provide enhanced service in southwestern Huntersville, are scouting locations around Hiwassee and Ramah Church roads as a step toward establishing a Station 5 to provide better service for northeastern Huntersville.

But while looming expenditures related to acquiring property – and building and equipping a fifth station – are highlighted in HFD Chief Jim Dotoli’s funding requests for the upcoming fiscal year, Dotoli also seeks a pay hike for firefighters along with the financing to create a new leadership position.

Dotoli presented his request to the town board at a budget review session April 1.

Dotoli is asking the town for $4.427 million for 2019-20 operations, a 12.32 percent increase from the $3.942 million the town allocated to the department – an outside agency that provides fire and emergency services to the town through a contractual agreement – in the current budget.

Dotoli asked for the first part of a two-phase increase in hourly compensation for HFD personnel. His outline would raise base firefighter pay from $12.50 an hour to $14 a hour for Fiscal Year 2020 – which begins July 1 – and recommends another hourly increase be implemented in FY 2021.

Dotoli told commissioners surrounding communities pay part-time firefighters higher wages – he specifically referenced $15 base hourly rates in Davidson and Cornelius – and said the increase was designed to help keep the HFD from losing personnel to nearby departments.

Dotoli also asked for $85,000 to fund one 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week “deputy chief” position to guarantee a leadership position is staffed at all times. In previous requests related to the position – which would be filled in shifts by multiple members of the HFD staff – Dotoli said having a clearly designated person in charge would be a valuable asset.

Dotoli’s HFD summary, received as information by commissioners as part of preliminary budget review process, also referenced annual payments of $106,000 as part of 10-year financing for a newly acquired firetruck.

Other requests

Also at the April 1 session, commissioners reviewed funding requests from various nonprofit agencies, groups and facilities eligible for financial support through locally generated travel and tourism funds.

The Ada Jenkins Center,  the Arts and Science Council, North Mecklenburg Crime Stoppers, Historic Latta Plantation, Historic Rural Hill, The Hugh Torance House and Store, and the Loch Norman Pipe Band are among the entities seeking discretionary funding from the town.

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