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Cost to city for Salisbury Millwork fire at $159,287 so far

By Mark Wineka
Salisbury Post
The March 7 Salisbury Millwork fire, in which two city firefighters died, has cost the city of Salisbury $159,287 to date.
The taxpayers’ cost actually is $128,846 when $30,441 the city received in donations and grants after the fire are factored in.
Individuals and organizations made the contributions, city officials say.
City Manager David Treme and Management Services Director John Sofley said the costs incurred by the city represent things such as overtime hours paid to police, fuel costs for other fire departments who filled in at Salisbury fire stations, lost equipment and other supplies.
A specific breakdown of the costs has not been released. The expenses cited were “directly related to the fire,” a memo from Finance Manager S. Wade Furches said Thursday.
Salisbury City Council will be asked to make a budget amendment on Tuesday reflecting the expenses and donations.
The $128,846 in expenses will be transferred from a city fund balance reserved for emergencies.
Salisbury firefighters Victor Isler Sr. and Justin Monroe died in the woodworking plant’s fire, which also injured another Salisbury firefighter and three Locke Fire Department members. The fire, which started in the basement ceiling of the plant’s office, caused an estimated $2 million in damage.
In his annual budget message this spring, Treme sounded a word of caution that findings related to the fire could have an impact on future budgets. He noted the city was “still evaluating our human and physical resources in terms of the impact of that incident.”
He added that an independent evaluation by an expert panel, a state Occupational Safety and Health report and a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health report ó all of which are pending ó will likely outline findings that could “highly recommend” equipment, procedures and personnel not addressed in the proposed 2008-2009 budget.
The city of Charleston, S.C., has set aside or spent more than $7.4 million in response to last June’s Sofa Super Store fire in which nine city firefighters perished.
The fire-related costs led to Charleston’s first property tax increase since 1999.
A city-appointed consulting panel in Charleston recommended some 200 changes, and the more expensive upgrades included dozens of new positions for firefighters, officers and dispatchers.
The six-person panel itself incurred about $320,000 in expenses. It generated a 272-page investigative report.
Other major costs in Charleston were $3.6 million for staffing, equipment and training upgrades; about $270,000 for post-fire counseling for firefighters and their families; $76,500 for outside legal fees and fines; and $62,000 for a memorial service to honor the nine firefighters who lost their lives.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mwineka@salisburypost.com.

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