MATTHEWS – Leaders with the Matthews Board of Commissioners will soon sit down with officials with the Idlewild Volunteer Fire Department to discuss what needs Idlewild may have in the next few years.
Matthews and Mint Hill provide funding to the department each year, as Idlewild serves a portion of both towns with fire and EMS efforts in support of the towns’ own volunteer departments. Matthews has two fire departments, and as such can cover the entire town if needed, according to town manager Hazen Blodgett – though Idlewild often supports the Matthews Volunteer Fire Department with additional equipment and manpower from its department at 10241 Idlewild Road and used to be responsible for a portion of town before Matthews added a second department. Mint Hill relies on Idlewild to provide service up to Lebanon Road in addition to helping elsewhere when needed, town manager Brian Welch said.
Both towns have contributed $190,000 each to Idlewild for the past few years – $160,000 for the department’s operating costs and $30,000 to help pay for a new fire engine Idlewild purchased. While the $30,000 for the fire engine has been included as part of Mint Hill’s general budget, Matthews paid for the engine through its separate Community Investment Program. Those payments came to an end last year, and the extra $30,000 is not included in this year’s CIP or proposed budget in Matthews. Blodgett said additional funds could be added to the CIP next year if Idlewild needs to purchase more equipment, but he would not recommend adding the $30,000 to this budget at this time. The town will know more following its upcoming meeting with Idlewild officials, and Blodgett said the department’s needs could be worked into the CIP in the near future if the department faced an emergency of some kind.
Welch’s proposed budget includes continuing the $190,000 in funding to Idlewild. Mint Hill does not utilize an investment program such as what Matthews uses, and would continue paying the extra $30,000 if this year’s proposed budget is approved for Idlewild to use to prepare for future purchases. Both Matthews and Mint Hill must approve their 2014-15 fiscal budget by June 30 or pass an emergency spending plan until a full budget is in place.
Idlewild currently is looking to replace a 1989 pumper, which has serious engine problems, in addition to replacing an aging 1998 rescue pumper, according to Idlewild Assistant Chief Brian White.
Idlewild has 73 members on the roster, all of whom are state certified EMTs, and ran 2,439 emergency calls for service in 2013. And though the department saw a drop in calls last year because Idlewild no longer had to respond to non-emergency calls, White expects the need to continue to grow as more senior retirement facilities are built in Matthews and Mint Hill and population increases.
“Matthews pays for half a station and gets a full station; Mint Hill pays for half a station and gets a full station,” White explained, saying his department is a cost-effective benefit to both towns. Idlewild also receives some funding from Mecklenburg County, though it is less than the department receives from either town.
Idlewild is constantly looking for volunteers who can respond to emergency calls, take care of administrative needs or help with non-emergency assistance, White said. Training meetings are held every Monday night at 7 p.m. at the station, while anyone is welcome to visit the station throughout the week so children can see the trucks, people can learn more about fire prevention and area residents “can see how your tax dollars are being spent,” White
The department is working to reach more people in the community through its website, www.idlewildvfd.org, or through its Twitter page, @Idlewild VFD. The station also has a Spanish-language Twitter feed.