Tuesday night, Weddington Town Hall was not only packed with people, but also with emotions. There wasn’t enough standing room as residents crammed into – and outside – the chambers.
Mayor Bill Deter called a special meeting to vote to end a 60-year relationship with the Providence Volunteer Fire Department.
“We hoped that a show of force by enough people would hopefully do something to change his mind,” one resident said.
But the town will not be without fire service. Another vote followed securing a contract with neighboring Wesley Chapel’s VFD.
Deter says it’s the fiscally responsible thing to do because of Providence’s financial issues.
“Like most political issues, it’s the people against something that tend to come out,” Deter said.
But residents are worried the quality of service will go down, causing their insurance rates to go up. Providence currently has the highest rating in Union County and one of the best in the state.
“Staffing levels are going to decrease, so in effect services will decrease,” Chief Kenny Schott said.
Davie Summey with the North Carolina Department of Insurance tells WBTV, the Observer’s news partner, that a rate increase could happen because there will be a significant change to fire services in Weddington.
“It’s possible, there’s no guarantee that the insurance rates won’t go up,” Summey said.
Summey and another state insurance inspector came Tuesday night to address the council but couldn’t since the mayor said it wasn’t a public forum.
WBTV has obtained letters sent from the state informing Deter of the possibility but he has continuously said residents should not worry about their rates going up.
“It’s kind of like the Bible, people will pull out verses that support their side,” Deter said.
Despite the vote, this department isn’t packing up just yet, and is considering taking legal action against the town they’ve fought so long to protect.
“The citizens are going to come together, they’ve spoken up, they don’t want it,” Schott said.
Providence’s initial contract states the town must pay them $750,000 if their contract is terminated without cause. Deter says their financial problems are enough cause.
No word yet when Wesley Chapel will take over, but it could be as soon as this summer.
WBTV is a media partner of The Charlotte Observer.