KNOTTS ISLAND, N.C. – A community meeting to discuss a proposed special service tax district to pay for fire protection services on Knotts Island will be held this evening at the elementary school on the island.
The district would mean a property tax increase for islanders. The money would help offset costs of county personnel providing service based upon the island since a contract dispute in late 2017 led to the Knotts Island Volunteer Fire Department ceasing operations.
The community meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the cafeteria in Knotts Island Elementary School, 413 Woodleigh Road. Additionally, a public hearing is scheduled for the Monday, May 6, meeting of the Currituck County Board of Commissioners on the mainland in the Historic Courthouse.
In a report released this past month, the county noted the district would partially fund protection for about 1,500 islanders, as well as businesses and property in a 10,800-acre area that is geographically isolated from the North Carolina mainland.
One must drive into Virginia to reach Knotts Island from the Currituck County mainland, or use ferry service for access.
Amid a contract dispute, the volunteer fire department on Knotts Island ceased operations in November 2017, and the county took over fire protection efforts on the island with cross-trained fire and emergency medical services personnel and the assistance of some volunteers.
The possible property tax increase proposed would add 5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for those within the service district, according to the county report.
Currituck County Fire and EMS Chief Ralph Melton and Deputy Chief Tim Riley, speaking during a telephone interview, said the hope is to help fund fire protection services and protect islanders and the island.
County personnel have adopted a schedule to ensure continuous fire and EMS coverage operating from the rescue station on the island, and that coverage will be maintained.
Both officials stressed that volunteers remain a valuable part of the equation, and Melton said there has been an “uptick” in volunteer support.
The county needs to continue providing fire service because, as The Independent News previously reported, there has not been enough of a volunteer contingent to provide coverage around the clock.
“The only thing that has changed is the 5 cents,” Riley said. A tax increase would mean an additional $50 in property taxes per year for home on the island assessed at $100,000.
“That doesn’t pay for the service,” Melton said, “but it does help offset the cost.”
Personnel handle about 250 calls per year, and the bulk – about 190 – are emergency medical services calls.
Information about the district, including the report, is available via currituckinfo.com. Citizens can also fill out an online survey at the site.
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