Unofficial results: Spartanburg Co. voters against Pelham-Batesv - FOX Carolina 21

Unofficial results: Spartanburg Co. voters against Pelham-Batesville FD bond referendum

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(Source: Pelham-Batesville Fire Dept.) (Source: Pelham-Batesville Fire Dept.)
GREER, SC (FOX Carolina) -

The Pelham-Batesville Fire District serves areas in both Greenville and Spartanburg counties, but Tuesday’s referendum was only open to Spartanburg voters.

Greenville County has already approved a bond issuance without any conditions, but the fire district said Spartanburg County required a referendum.

The fire district sought $6.5 million in total bonds to build and equip a new 26,000 square-foot fire station headquarters.

A close race on Tuesday revealed the majority of voters were not in favor of the referendum. According to the unofficial results, 64 voters were opposed and 51 were in favor. There was about a 10.5 percent voter turnout.

Here is the question that was on the referendum ballot:

Shall the Pelham-Batesville Fire District, located in Spartanburg County and Greenville County, South Carolina (the "District"), be authorized to issue and sell, either as a single issue or as several separate issues, general obligation bonds of the District in an aggregate principal amount of not exceeding $6,500,000, the proceeds of which shall be applied to defray the costs (including architectural, engineering, legal and related expenses) of the following: (i) developing, constructing, and outfitting of a new headquarters and fire station building of the District, to include areas for: meeting facilities; training and community events; office and administrative areas; crew quarters; apparatus bays and apparatus and facility support areas; and furniture, fixtures and equipment; and (ii) paying certain costs related to the issuance of such bonds?

Voters in Spartanburg County, who are protected by the Pelham-Batesville Fire District, decided Tuesday on a bond referendum to cover the cost of a new fire station.

One day later the mood is quiet, and as crews stay busy throughout their shift, so does Fire Chief Phill Jolley. All day he was on the phone, pacing around, trying to come up with a new plan.

"We're working on it and seeing what we can come up with in a different fashion to end up at the same place somewhere down the road,” Jolley said. “The biggest thing is it will just take longer to get there."

The Chief said the project will likely be in two or maybe three phases. He said it also means tightening those budget belts even more.

"It's costing us more money to operate than it would if we could start fresh with new systems, new technology and more efficient equipment," Jolley explained.

A lot of the added costs he describes as band-aids - a temporary fix to a bigger problem. He said sure enough, voters got to see it firsthand with the vote actually taking place at the station.

"While the voting was going on, the guy was out there working on the heating and air conditioning systems that we are band-aiding together every year," Jolley said.  

As he walked around the building, he recalled his first day almost 30 years ago, back when the facility was brand new.

"When I came to work here, there were seven employees, including myself,” Jolley said. “Today there are 48 employees."

A growing district, serving two counties, now works in cramped spaces. Jolley said it's obvious the second you walk into the outdated sleeping quarters. New facilities are upping the privacy, but in the headquarters, all of the beds are in one room for men and women to share.  

"It just makes it a lot easier when you've got individual sleeping rooms instead of one big open area,” Jolley said.

The Chief said the real problem begins outside - the fire truck bays are tight. Just six years ago, he said they had to build a shed to house equipment, and it's still not enough.

"We don't have room here so all that stuff is spread out between the four stations in the district," Jolley said.

This means that before he can put it in a route, someone has to pick it up from the other stations which slows down some response times. He said the changes will come, one way or another.

"We'll still get there, it will just take us longer to do it," Jolley said.

After the unofficial votes came in, Pelham-Batesville Assistant Fire Chief Carey Ballew said the department could have used the new station to help them continue to grow, but that they will keep moving forward to serve the community.

"It's certainly their right to vote no as much as it is yes, and we were glad to see people turn out. Unfortunately, it didn't go the way we wanted...but we accept the results of the referendum, and we'll move forward," Assistant Chief Ballew said. "It's not going to change anything that we do day-to-day to protect the citizens in the district."

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