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Judge says West Florence Fire can continue operating on its own, for now

(WPDE file image)

A S.C. Circuit Court judge has granted West Florence Fire District a stay, meaning for now it can continue operating as a separate fire district outside of Florence County's consolidated fire district, according to West Florence Fire Board of Commissioners Chairman Dustin Fails.

Fails said the stay will be in place until the district appeals a lawsuit ruling from back in January that said it can't operate as a special purpose district.

South Carolina Circuit Court Judge J.C. Nicholson, Jr., issued that ruling following a two-day bench trial last July at the Florence County Courthouse.

Florence County filed suit against West Florence Fire District in September 2014 saying that it was unconstitutional to operate as a special purpose fire district.

State House Bill H. 5225 was passed into law last May, thereby creating a separate fire district in West Florence and removing the community from Florence County's new consolidated fire district, which merged six districts into one.

Council first filed a suit to stop the district in the S.C. Supreme Court, but the court ruled that it will not hear the matter.

The suit, naming the district and its five commissioners, was then filed in 12th Circuit Court of Common Pleas.

Commissioners with West Florence Fire District said they have the right to operate as a special purpose district, as 75 other special purpose fire districts exist in South Carolina.

Florence County Council Chairman Kent Caudle said back in February that the county is prepared to deal with an appeal of the ruling when and if one is filed.

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