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New fire station could cut rates for insurance

If Lincoln County commissioners approve a new satellite fire station and additional funding for the East Lincoln Volunteer Fire Department tonight, they may be able to prevent insurance premium hikes for roughly 350 area homeowners.

Lincoln County Manager George Wood told the Times-News on Friday that due to a five-mile travel-distance requirement from the station to homes within that fire district, there will be an increase in homeowner insurance premiums for those who do not meet the Class 5 fire insurance rating.

Homeowners in the area, who have now been bumped up to a Class 9 rating, will face increases of between 30 and 70 percent upon renewals this fall, depending on their insurance companies.

Wood said the “excessively high insurance premiums” meant that the county had “no choice” but to step in. He said the issue was no one’s fault and that no rules have changed. Instead, the issue arose when the State ISO office began notifying insurers that they must write the policy based on the travel-distance requirement.

The fire department has been looking to purchase land for its second station, which could resolve the issue eventually, but would not do so in time.

In a memo Wood sent to county commissioners, he states that “the best solution we have come up with is for the ELVFD to rent an existing small industrial building on Commerce Drive that has large doors and bays capable of storing two fire engines.”

“Renting this facility would give the department the necessary five-minute response time to these 352 affected properties, so that their insurance premiums do not go up,” he continued.

The county would need to loan the fire district around $30,000 to offset the rent, utilities and other expenses for the temporary substation.

The potential benefit to homeowners hoping to avoid higher insurance rates could come at a price. The fire department has also requested that the county raise the fire district tax in the next fiscal year to repay the loan and cover expenses in fiscal year 2013.

Other items on the agenda at tonight’s Lincoln County Board of Commissioners meeting include:

Two public hearings regarding the removal and change of road names will be held.

Assistant County Manager Martha Lide will present a severe weather and emergency conditions policy that clarifies which “essential” county employees must report to work during those circumstances.

Leon Harmon, director of the Finance Department, will present the Capital Project Ordinance for the Rock Springs Nature Preserve.

Two public hearings will be conducted for industrial incentive grants, one for a new industry and one for an existing one. The names of each will be disclosed at the meeting.

A public hearing will be conducted for the North Carolina Tomorrow Grant.

Wood will recommend the Planning Board prepare a small-area plan for Crescent Properties on N.C. 16 at the Gaston County line.

The finance officer’s, county manager’s, county commissioners’, county attorney’s and register of deeds reports will be given.

The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Citizens Center in Lincolnton and is open to the public.


SARAH LOWERY, Staff writer

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