Tax increase proposed to help Horry County Fire Rescue

Horry County Fire Rescue Chief Garry Alderman proposes a tax increase.

CONWAY, S.C. (WPDE) - Horry County Fire Rescue Chief Garry Alderman told a county council committee he needs more firefighters and updated equipment to continue protecting the citizens of the county. He proposed a tax increase for homeowners of 4.5 mills and now it's up to Horry County Council to figure out the next step.

Across Horry County, there are 39 fire stations. At a Fire Ad Hoc committee meeting Thursday afternoon, Chief Alderman presented statistics to two council members. Since 2007 response times have improved, the number of firefighters is up from 2003 levels, and more stations are in service. But Chief Alderman said more is needed.

Lutie Floyd, who lives in the Finklea community, agreed. "I'm concerned about the safety of my community. I'm concerned about the shortage of staffing and the equipment."

"National standards encourage you to have a three man response team instead of a two. We currently have a two man response team. So there is someone who will respond if our residents call 911," added Councilman Al Allen.

Chief Alderman said the tax increase would mean those living in a $100,000 house would pay $18 a year. The added revenue would go towards hiring 45 field positions and buying updated equipment. But a tax increase needs the support of council.

"A tax increase may not be a good option. But at the same time, we have to look at it and we have to weigh and find as many options as possible because we have to make sure fire rescue is adequately staffed and maintained for the citizens here in the county," said Allen. "See if there's something we could possibly do without a tax increase that would be my first choice to try to see if there could be some shifting of funds. If there could be some type of sacrifice by council in order to meet these needs without a tax increase."

Allen said he'll bring up the issue during council's budget retreat during the last week of April. The committee was also presented with more than 35 pages of e-mails from the community concerning fire rescue issues within the county.

As for Floyd, she wants to see changes made soon. "We can do better than this. Obviously Horry County is growing leaps and bounds so you can't use the same fireman and policeman to maintain what you were. We find the money for anything else we want."