Skyland – The Skyland Fire Department held its annual meeting on Monday (July 12). About 100 people attended the meeting to hear the yearly report, the financial statement and to vote on business and board members. The Tribune recently reported on a turnaround in the department’s financial situation. Back in 2017, the department had to borrow $150,000 from the Riceville Fire Department to make payroll.
Residents of the fire district were welcomed to the meeting by Vice-Chairman T.J. Fortenberry after an invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance. Fortenberry was filling in for Chairman of the Board Scott Hart, who was out due to a personal injury.
Skyland Fire Chief Trevor Lance gave the annual report. Lance told the group the department had responded to 4,462 incidents for EMS (2,959) and fire (1,503). He also said 37.49 percent of their calls for service overlapped, meaning that before a call could clear, another call came in nearly 40 percent of the time. The Skyland Fire District also provided mutual aid to other departments 320 times while receiving only 80 times.
The report said the property saved by the department was estimated at over $8.5 million, while the losses were estimated at just over a million. Over 66 percent of Skyland’s calls are rescue and emergency medical calls, with only about two percent being actual fire calls. Some may think that Skyland Fire is only one station, but in reality, it’s four: the main station, Avery’s Creek, Biltmore Forest and Bishop.
Board member Scott Hare read the financial report and noted that between restricted funds (more than $2.5 million) and unrestricted funds (more than $3.6 million), the department had a fund balance of over $6.2 million.
Hare reported on June 23 to the Tribune that the department had a fund balance of $3,189,430. This is about a $400,000 difference from what was reported at the meeting and nearly $3 million difference when the restricted funds are added. Restricted funds must be spent on capital improvements to the station, vehicles or equipment, retirement insurance and emergency and disaster personnel.
Then board member Sam Mabery read minutes from the last meeting, and the district members voted in new by-laws for the department and board.
Next, nominations were held for the three-year term for a firefighter director (who represents the firefighter to the board) and two community at large directors (who represents the community to the board). Nominees for the firefighters included Sam Mabery, Tim Hinman and Howard McDills. Nominees for the community were Jeffery Traz, Scott Hare and Kermit Tolley.
After the vote was taken, Fortenberry announced that under the by-laws just enacted that McDills was not eligible as the firefighter director. So nominations were retaken—the only change was that McDills was nominated for a community director. After the vote was counted, Hinman was elected Firefighter Director and McDills and Tolley were elected as community directors.
During the election for the two-year terms for Firefighter Director, Mabery was once again nominated along with Rick Wood, with Wood taking the race. In the community directors, the four nominees were Hare, John Humphery, Traz and Sandy Worley with Worley and Humphery winning. When opening the floor to public comment, only one person spoke, asking why former fire chief Ryan Cole was fired. One board member said he believed he resigned, but that’s all they could say about the matter. This was the first public meeting since the COVID pandemic.