RED SPRINGS — Red Springs Fire Department Chief John Ammons now wears three hats, and is a full-time town employee.
Ammons, who had been serving as the town’s part-time fire chief, is now fire chief, dog warden and fire inspector.
“All three of those positions were part-time and we now combined them into one position, a public safety officer,” Mayor John McNeill said. “We found this to be of little or no additional cost to the town.”
Ammons came before town commissioners on Tuesday to brief them on activities at the fire department. After being questioned by McNeill, he also updated the board on Animal Control.
Thirty cats have been picked up recently as they wandered about the town, Ammons said. Ten dogs and a fox also have also been trapped.
In regards to the fire department, there are now 29 members, including three junior members between the ages of 14 and 18, he said. All 26 members 18 and older have acquired more than the 36 hours of training required each year, with most members averaging more than 46 hours. Some members have completed 200 hours of training this year.
The department is working toward getting a better rating so Red Springs property owners will be able to obtain lower homeowners insurance, Ammons said. This includes keeping the required three years of pump records, breathing apparatus records and hose records that are required by the state.
Red Springs currently has a fire protection rating of 6, and the department’s immediate goal is to lower the rating to 5.
McNeill praised the local department for making improvements that should lead to a lower rating.
In other business, Town Manager James Bennett reported that Red Springs will be competing with several other Robeson County municipalities for about $10 million of the $69 million in federal Community Block Grant funds that are available to the county to help fund public Hurricane Matthew disaster relief efforts.
“We had nine or 10 homes destroyed, so hopefully we will get some of this money,” Bennett said.
Bennett urges local property owners whose homes were damaged by floodwaters to apply for assistance from the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency’s Disaster Loan Pool Program.
The agency is providing funds to participating local organizations for the rehabilitation of owner-occupied homes damaged as a result of the hurricane. Homeowners wanting to participate in the program can apply directly to local partner organizations designated by the agency.
The loans are unsecured and have a zero percent interest rate. The program can cover damages up to $40,000 and as long as the hurricane survivor lives in the home the borrower will not be required to make any loan payments.
The commissioners appointed Town Clerk Barbara McColl to help those wishing to apply for the loans. She will take all required information and contact the Housing Finance Agency for the individual applicants.
“This will keep us from going in five or six different directions,” McNeill said.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.