From the Asheville Citizen-Times
BILTMORE FOREST — The Asheville Fire Fighters Association contends a recent shift in fire coverage in Biltmore Forest to Skyland Fire & Rescue was done without proper notification or negotiations, and that it will leave most town residents with slower response times.
Biltmore Forest and Skyland Fire officials dispute the assertions, maintaining the contract will result in no compromise to safety while saving the town $326,000.
But town officials acknowledge they did no study of response times between the two departments, saying the quicker city turnout time is relatively minor and residents would not be endangered.
In place since 1995, the deal expired Aug. 31. The City of Asheville Fire Department provided service to Biltmore Forest, a 2.5-square-mile town of 1,356 people and 665 homes, from its fire station at the intersection of Hendersonville and Caribou roads.
Under the contract, Biltmore Forest paid Asheville’s $751,000 for fire and emergency responses in the fiscal year that ended June 30. The new contract calls for the town to pay Skyland $425,000 annually for 15 years, a yearly savings of $326,000.
But Asheville Fire Fighters Association President Scott Mullins said that apparent savings is misleading because the city, in a May 3 letter, offered to provide coverage for $450,000 annually for this fiscal year, with a 2.5 percent increase each year thereafter for five years.
That means Asheville was just $25,000 above Skyland’s offer, and Mullins contends the city can provide faster service with more personnel.
But the town did not respond to the letter, other than to send Asheville a termination letter June 28.