Published: Feb 22, 2013 12:00 AM
Modified: Feb 21, 2013 06:24 PM
CHAPEL HILL - Chapel Hill agreed this month to take the lead fighting fires in southern Orange County for two years.
Now the county wants the town to do it for three more.
The Town Council’s decision Feb. 10 will help reduce homeowners’ insurance premiums for 112 homes east of Mt. Carmel Church Road. The Orange County Board of Commissioners was supposed to approve the new, two-year contract last week. Instead, the county asked for five years and sent the contract back to the Town Council.
The new contract would let Chapel Hill opt out of providing primary service to those homes earlier, if the town gives a year’s notice. The town is reluctant to provide fire service for more time without annexing 274 homes in the affected area.
The town already provides some services to its extraterritorial jurisdiction areas with the expectation that they will be annexed one day. However, state rules were changed to prohibit involuntary annexation, which means a majority of the affected residents would have to agree first.
County Commissioner Earl McKee supported Tuesday’s vote but said he doesn’t want to see the county get involved in an annexation fight. The commissioners have agreed to work with the town over the next two years to find an equitable way to serve county residents who live just outside the town limits.
The county’s new fire service contracts would establish three new districts – South Orange, North Chatham and Greater Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, Carrboro and North Chatham already respond to that area under a mutual aid agreement. North Chatham is the primary responder, but it is located more than six miles from 112 homes in that area, significantly increasing their homeowners’ insurance premiums.
If Chapel Hill, which has a station about three miles away, signs the contract, the homeowners would pay 15 cents per $100 in property value to pay for the service. The town would get $286,320 in tax revenues.
If the town rejects the new contract, the county would ask Carrboro, which is less than six miles away, to provide service at 10 cents per $100 in property values. Carrboro would get roughly $190,000 in tax revenues.