Last updated: July 16. 2014 8:51AM - 1751 Views
By - swillets@civitasmedia.com

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FAIRMONT — The Fairmont Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night voted unanimously to split its Department of Public Safety into separate Fire and Police departments.

“After talking to the police officers and firemen, they like it better that way,” said Linda Vause, the town manager.

Because the departments both operate under Public Safety, police officers sometimes respond to fires. Vause said dividing the departments, which were merged in 2005, will reduce the amount of time officers spend at fires and lead to “better utilization of our assets.” Vause hopes the change will save the town money.

Commissioner Terry Evans said the move will give each department more independence.

“It’s the way that this town has operated, but combining them, it just wasn’t working,” Evans said, noting the Fire Department had requested the split.

Former Fire Chief James Thompson will head up the fire division. Vause said she doesn’t anticipate any other staffing changes.

Fairmont’s police division has been without an official chief since Danny Parker left his position on June 4 after it was disclosed publicly that the State Bureau of Investigation was investigating him for allegedly misusing money at the South Robeson Rescue Unit, where he once served as commander.

In February, Vause was asked by a commissioner to study the feasibility of dissolving both divisions and contracting out fire and police services to the Fairmont Rural Fire Department and Robeson County Sheriff’s Office. After this newspaper reported that action, commissioners chastised the reporting, saying contracting out the services was not a serious option.

No formal request was made to the county Board of Commissioners, but county officials did say the Sheriff’s Office did not want to take on that responsibility.

In other business, the board:

— Voted to contribute $607.97 to the North Carolina League of Municipalities Technical Assistance Fund. The North Carolina League of Municipalities works as a liaison between municipalities and regulatory agencies.

— Voted to accept final bids of $5,000 for a warehouse lot on North Walnut Street; $1,500 for property at 606 N. Main St.; and $2,500 for a lot on Iona Street.

— Voted to accept a bid of $7,500 for three lots at N.C. 41 and N.C. 130. Those properties will be advertised for upset bids.

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