Future uncertain for the Ashley River Fire Department

Ashley River Fire Department.png

Dorchester County's last self-governing fire department may not see it's 40th anniversary year this summer.

The Ashley River Fire Department opened in 1979 after the community successfully petitioned the state.

The fire department responds to nearly 1,000 calls a year, and are rated one of the best emergency centers in the nation.

But now they could be on the chopping block.

“There's anxiety now with my employees," says Chief Scott Inabenet. "I’ve had 20 of them call me since this hit over the weekend and they’re concerned about it"

Chief Inabenet says he's shocked county leaders are being asked to collect necessary documents to dissolve the Ashley River tax district, which funds the department.

He says it's set to happen at a county council meeting tonight and believes that means the end of the Ashley River Fire Department.

But Dorchester Council Chairman George Bailey says people shouldn't worry about their safety.

Bailey says the findings could eventually lead to a merger of Ashley River with North Charleston Fire Department.

"Until they bring their information back to County Council as to what are the pluses and the minuses, we will sit idol," he said.

The chief says the agenda item seems to have popped up out of nowhere, and now he's concerned about his 55 employees.

“About half of my staff are paid, so they’re going to be looking for jobs," he said.

"We can surely encourage that the staff remains with the fire department, because that's their livelivehood," Bailey said.

Still, questions about the new look into Ashley River Tax District and Fire Department remain.

“It’s in writing on the agenda, so it looks like it’s gonna happen," Chief Inabenet said.

Bailey says things have changed in the tax district since the department’s founding, including many neighborhoods in that area being annexed into the City of North Charleston.

He says abolishing the district could also mean tax breaks and higher safety standards across Dorchester County.

Wednesday's county council meeting in St. George is about 45 minutes away from the Ashley River district.

The fire chief is urging county leaders and the public to stand up for the department.

The meeting starts at 6 p.m. at St. George County Council Chambers, 201 Johnson Street.

201 Johnston Street

St. George, South Carolina 29477

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