A proposed fire-services contract between the city of Beaufort and town of Port Royal would reduce bureaucracy and allow more focus on firefighters' needs, Fire Chief Sammy Negron says.
Negron said it would be easier to deal with only one governing body when it comes to finances.
The Port Royal Town Council is expected to vote on the agreement with the city of Beaufort -- the first update to the fire-services contract in about 20 years -- at 6:30 p.m. today at Town Hall.
Officials have worked on the agreement for more than a year. At one point, plans included consolidating buildings and equipment under the city of Beaufort and dividing costs, with Beaufort paying 70 percent and Port Royal the remaining 30 percent.
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However, during a public meeting last summer, Port Royal officials balked at the possibility of losing control of their equipment and buildings.
The contract expected to be voted on today is a compromise that splits costs and personnel between Beaufort and Port Royal based on housing and comunity needs. Contract details will be available after it is approved, Beaufort city manager Scott Dadson said.
"(The new agreement) gives us a clear(er) understanding of how we split costs, so that helps us and it helps them," Dadson said.
The contract is fair in terms of how labor is allocated between the city and town and allows the city to provide additional training for firefighters, Port Royal town manager Van Willis said.
It also outlines how the municipalities would purchase equipment and buildings.
Beaufort is planning a new neighborhood fire station in the Mossy Oaks area. Officials had considered making it a joint headquarters for the Port Royal and Beaufort fire departments, but chose not to take that step now.
Negron said the contract will not change how the fire department operates and will make it possible to maintain a Class 2 Insurance Services Office fire rating for the area from downtown Beaufort to downtown Port Royal.
The ISO rating is one often used by insurance companies to measure a community's ability to provide fire protection. One is the highest rating, and 10 is the lowest, according to the ISO.
The contract includes an cost increase for 2014 for both the city and the town of about $69,000 and $50,000, respectively. Negron called that "a heck of a deal for anyone," considering this is the first time in about 20 years the contract has been renegotiated.
This year, Port Royal's share is expected to be $709,044, while Beaufort's is $2,188,177. Next year, those estimates are $712,716 and $2,256,935, respectively. Inflation of 2.5 percent is built into the five-year contract.
"This also provides the town of Port Royal with a better forecast of what the costs of the fire department will be, allowing them to plan accordingly," Negron said.
- Beaufort, Port Royal councils work together on proposed fire department contract, June 19, 2012
- Beaufort reconsidering new fire station as time runs out on borrowed money, Sept. 22, 2012
- Beaufort, Port Royal consider joint fire department headquarters, Feb. 21,, 2011
- Beaufort and Port Royal receive joint fire rating, Jan. 26, 2012