“Lives are at stake”: Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire Rescue is moving forward after referendum vote

Grand Strand

MURRELLS INLET, SC (WBTW) – The Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire Rescue board met Monday night for the first time since voters last week rejected a referendum to give more funding to the department.

Many who spoke in public comment believed a lack of communication by the board got them where they are today.

“The $15 or the $35 increase annually will take away an ambulance,” one who participated in public comment reminded the audience.

One referendum voters didn’t approve last week have firefighters and board members at Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire Rescue talking about what happens next.

“The handling of this referendum was so ill-prepared,” said Chad Gill, President of the Murrells Inlet-Garden City Professional Firefighters Association. “There was no coverage, no push, no advertising. Instead, they were relying on hopes and dreams to get the referendum passed.”

That referendum proposed increasing property taxes, which would have given the department about $1.2 million.

“We’ve been engaging our community, being there, trying to, you know, say hey, we’re here, this is what we can offer, hey we have a referendum going, this is what it can do to help your community,” said one person about how firefighters and paramedics themselves helped to get the word out about the referendum.

Chairman of the Friends of Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire District Tom Swatzel says he read the audits from 2014-2017 and says he just couldn’t make a case for the increase in funding.

His questions to the board went unanswered.

“I told you that, I sent an email to you, you know, highlighting my questions, my concerns, which you sent that email, I think you forwarded it to the rest of the board,” he said. “It was like March 25th. You know, I haven’t heard one word back since?”

Going forward, board chair George Oldroyd says the board will enter into their budget process by looking at what they’re told by the counties that they could expect from income.

“We’re going to align that up with our anticipated expenses, and we’re going to try to make the two match,” he said. “That’s the budgeting process.”

Monday night, the board approved to ask auditors to come up with a true and valid budget projection based on the past four years.

The board plans to send a letter to the county in the coming days to ask for a millage rate of 14 mills.

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