The county Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the purchase of a pumper tanker fire truck for the Sauratown Volunteer Fire Department at a cost not to exceed $400,000 Monday night, after some commissioners questioned the need for the truck at a previous meeting.
Commissioner Earnest Lankford had removed the item from the consent agenda at the last board meeting, saying that he needed more information about the need for it before giving approval.
On Monday, after receiving documentation that the existing truck had not passed a pump test since 2003 and was only usable to haul water in water supply operations, Lankford said he had enough information to approve the purchase.
But Lankford added that he wanted the county fire commission to identify a type of vehicle that could work for every fire department in the county.
“We need to determine a type of vehicle that will work in all the stations we have in our system instead of each department designing or specing out what they want,” said Lankford. ‘We need to get a prototype that would be suitable for all the stations that we have. That needs to be worked out.”
Commissioners continue to debate livestock agent
Stokes County Extension Director Debbie Cox provided the board with more information about the need for a livestock agent in the county Monday.
She noted that the county has 353 farms with 3,144 head of cattle generating $9.5 million, 100 farms with 260,207 birds producing eggs generating $232,00, and 93 farms with 1,637 goats generating $102,000.
“I feel we have enough work for a full time position that can help the industry grow,” she said, but noted that the agent, if hired, could also help with livestock education for the 4-H program.
Lankford reiterated his position from two weeks ago.
“I personally do not feel that a full time position is needed,” he said.
If the county were to hire a full time livestock agent it would mean spending an estimated $12,600 more for salary and benefits than what has been budgeted for the Extension Agency for this fiscal year.
Commissioner Jimmy Walker, who had previously expressed support for the move, said Monday that he wanted to make sure that it would not become a long-term solution for providing county farmers with a livestock agent.
“We don’t want to commit to a full time position from now on,” he said. “I can see someone coming in as a full time and having more to do over a year or so than over the long term. If we take this step we need to continue to look in the future for another arrangement where we split this with another county.”
During the public comment section of the meeting, North Stokes High School agriculture teacher Ben Hall asked the commissioners to consider hiring a full time livestock agent.
“If we look at the livestock agent position strictly as an educational resource we are selling the benefits of that position way short,” he said. “Stokes County is currently thirtieth in the state in cattle production. We are fourteenth in layer production.
“We need to look at this position in terms of economic development, not strictly an educational resource,” he added. “This is a position of growing a multi-million dollar industry in our county not just answering questions and coaching teams.
“One local cattle producer told me that the 700 head of cattle he sold last year, when prices were at their peak, brought in a gross income of $1.4 million,” said Hall. “That’s taxable income in our county. That’s supplies and feed that can purchased locally and bring in even more tax revenue for the county.
“We need someone we can call our own,” he concluded. “We need someone from this area committed to the economic development of our county , not someone who has to work in other counties as well. the increase to a full time position from a part time position only increases the return on our investment. A part time position is simply not enough. If whoever is hired to fill this position does ti like it should be done then they will have a full workload and we will receive 100 percent of the benefit from the position.”
The commissioners are set to vote on the issue at their next meeting.
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.