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Chemical spill lights medical school fire
Fefruary 18, 2002
By Kevin Lees

Matt Klein/The Chronicle
Durham- Firefighters respond to a blaze in the Davison Building. The fire was started by a chemical container that overflowed. A chemical fire near the Davison Building ignited Sunday afternoon, temporarily closing the Allen Building parking lot and parts of the Duke University Medical Center.
No one was killed or injured in the blaze, which began after a Carolina Restoration and Water Proofing contractor's container overflowed, said First Sergeant Jeffrey Best of the Duke University Police Department.
Officials have no estimate as to the cost of the damages, although the fire did not damage any Medical Center buildings.
"[The contractor was] cleaning the stone, resealing the stone," Best said. "They were using a [weatherproofing] chemical, a Chem-Trete, mixing it in a container. The container overflowed, and sprayed onto the engine of a crane nearby, which started the blaze."
The fire then spread to a nearby vehicle filled with flammable chemicals and fuel.
Capt. Barb Phillips of the Durham Fire Department said station No. 2 on Ninth Street got a call at 1:08 p.m. Sunday afternoon and had dispatched vehicles five minutes later.
"We had a good knock-down within five minutes," she said. "We did not have it out that quick, but had most of it knocked down.... It was not as bad as it sounded over the radio, or appeared upon initially seeing the fire."
Soon after, the police arrived and blocked off the entrance to the Allen Building parking lot and a number of entrances to Duke Clinic until the area was safe and the fire was extinguished.
Best said there were no injuries and that the six employees with the contractor were all secured away from the scene. The police then checked the Medical Center, cleared all buildings and floors and secured patients in their areas.
The incident occurred outdoors near the rear of the Davison Building by the purple zone and the loading dock area.
Phillips said the firefighters originally worried about the wind, but said that since it was blowing away from the building, the Medical Center was never in any serious danger.
Another potential problem, she said, was chemical contamination. A hazardous materials unit arrived on the scene, as did Duke's own environmental safety unit.
"The product most likely was burned up in the heat of the fire, so there were no runoff concerns," Phillips said. "Once we could identify the product, that alleviated a lot of fears. It wasn't as bad as it could have been."
Best said the container, truck, trailer and crane were all damaged or destroyed.
Richard Puff, a spokesperson for the Medical Center, said he did not have a figure for damages Sunday night but that one might be available in the next two days.
Duke has no fire service of its own, but pays Durham Fire Department an annual sum for services since the University pays no taxes under its non-profit status.
"I thought there might be a fire at Duke today, but I didn't know it would be like this, in this way," Phillips said, referencing the Duke-Maryland game, which was taking place at the same time.

Jerry's Kids August 6, 2001

DURHAM - A collaborative effort by The Professional Firefighters of Durham Local 668 and the Durham Fire Department raised more than $56,000.00 for Jerry's Kids during the first year of participating in the "Fill the Boot" campaign. Kelly McAlexander, Vice President of the Local noted that "we were quite surprised" at the amount of money raised. Five key intersections were designated as collection points for donations over a three-day period, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. William Towner the project coordinator for the local stated "the combined efforts of our Local 668 and the Durham Fire Department made this campaign extremely successful". Companies at each of the designated intersections consisted of both on-duty personnel and off-duty volunteers. In order to keep up with the kindness of our citizens, as many as 15 firefighters were required at the busier intersections. The spirit of giving seemed to be contagious as one motorist would donate and others would then follow. Firefighters held out the boots and passing motorist would fill them with loose change and bills. The effort was complimented with assistance from Ann Bonet, the area coordinator for MDA, and Carmella Blakney, community service coordinator for the Durham Fire Department. Towner noted that the Local is extremely proud to have the Durham Fire Department come on board with us and fight for a common goal. "Great things can be accomplished when management and the IAFF Local work together", Towner said. Our Local learned a lot during the weekend and the knowledge gained will contribute to making next year's campaign even better. We thank everyone that participated and we look forward to working together again next year. Special thanks to Mrs. Marcia Conner, the new city manager for her support and foresight, and to all the wonderful citizens that contributed to the MDA.

Durham City Council approves budget June 19, 2001

The Durham City Council narrowly approved a 2001-02 budget early Tuesday morning that calls for a 1.7-cent property-tax rate increase. Despite several attempts, the council didnít make any changes from a version backed by the Finance Committee a week and a half ago. Voting for the budget were Mayor Nick Tennyson and Council members Brenda Burnette, Dan Hill, Erick Larson, Mary Jacobs, Angela Langley and Lewis Cheek. Mayor Pro Tem Howard Clement and Council members Pamela Blyth, Tamra Edwards, Floyd McKissick, Thomas Stith and Jackie Wagstaff opposed the plan during the vote taken at about 12:30 a.m. "My concern is not so much the items in the budget as the tax increase," Clement said. "We, the people in Durham, cannot afford a tax increase." The $251 million budget will bring the tax rate to 53.4 cents per $100 valuation, 1.7 cents above the "revenue-neutral" rate. Thatís below the 2.5-cent increase that former Interim City Manager Greg Bethea had proposed last month. "I define this as a hold-the-line budget that accounts for a $2.2 million increase in debt service, and I think we need to do that," Tennyson said. With this yearís property revaluation, the city would have needed to set the property-tax rate at 51.7 cents to bring in the same amount of revenue as last yearís rate of 69 cents. The owner of home valued at $150,000 will pay $801 in annual city property taxes. Water and sewer rates remain the same. With a preliminary county tax rate at 72.9 cents per $100 valuation, that home owner would pay $1,894.50 in combined city and county property taxes next year. The County Commissioners are expected to adopt their budget June 25. Because of revaluation, an individual property owner could face a property-tax increase or decrease depending on how the homeís value increased compared with the rest of the county. On Monday, the City Council voted 7-6 keep city employee salary increases at 6 percent. Betheaís budget proposal would have given workers a 7 percent increase. Hill, Stith, Tennyson, Larson, Jacobs and Cheek had favored cutting the raise to 5 percent. Clement, who on Monday advocated for a 3.8 percent increase and last week called for a 2 percent raise, backed the 6 percent increase. The budget keeps the councilís salary at $12,239 and the mayorís salary at $15,253. And Monday the council voted to give City Attorney Henry Blinder and City Clerk Ann Gray the same raise as the rest of the workers. City Manager Marcia Connerís salary would stay at $138,000. She started two weeks ago. Council members also decided to retain $1.2 million being allocated for downtown redevelopment, mostly the American Tobacco renovation. The city has $798,000 set aside from last year because the American Tobacco project hasnít moved forward. Blyth, McKissick and Wagstaff had wanted to trim the downtown money. "Iím concerned about adding $1.2 million when we have a project thatís not ready to go yet," McKissick said. Conner had defended the need for the money, saying: "If you deplete this fund, weíll have a much more difficult time coming up with the funding in the future." She said the money could be used for new opportunities, citing the conversion of the vacant Heart of Durham motel as a possibility. Among the highlightís of this yearís budget: -- A $1.1 million maintenance initiative. Betheaís budget had initially included $1.58 million but that was later cut. That will eliminate some of the proposed renovations to the Durham Athletic Park, but others will go forward. -- $215,000 to hire eight maintenance workers to keep better care of city buildings and parks. -- 18 new firefighter recruits, half for three rescue squads and half for three outlying fire stations. Bethea had proposed 42 recruits to begin complying with new fire safety standards expected to be adopted next month. Hill, Stith and Clement had wanted to reduce that to nine. The budget also includes $300,000 that Duke University administrators have agreed to reimburse the city for fire service. -- Six new police officers for the Southpoint area and a new officer for Fayetteville Street at a cost of $296,000. The cityís budget accounts for ballooning debt payments from the 1996 bond package. Those payments will jump $2.2 million, the equivalent of 1.62 cents on the tax rate. An advisory committee pointed to those problems when it recommended the city raise or stop issuing debt to balance a projected budget shortfall. That had increased to $10 million when departments submitted their budget proposals. When voters approved the $86.29 million bond package in 1996, city officials had projected that the city would need a 6-cent property-tax increase -- 1 penny over six years -- to maintain its service level. But so far, the city had raised property taxes only a penny. COPYRIGHT 2001 by The Durham Herald Company. All rights reserved.

Council may trim firefighter increase

By RONNIE GLASSBERG : The Herald-Sun May 30, 2001 : 10:52 pm ET

DURHAM -- Durham Fire Chief Otis Cooper said Wednesday that he would only need nine to 18 more firefighters if it were not for proposed National Fire Protection Association standards. That would cut $457,000 to $628,000 from Interim City Manager Greg Betheaís proposed 2001-02 budget, which right now would add 42 firefighter recruits for half a year. During budget hearings Wednesday, several council members seemed more comfortable with the lower range, which would reduce the proposed 2.5 cent tax-rate increase by about half a penny. The Durham City Council continues its review of the proposed 2001-02 budget today at 1 p.m., with a citizens forum scheduled for 4 p.m. on the second floor of City Hall. The new fire standards, adopted May 16 by the National Fire Protection Association, would require at least four firefighters per truck and a minimum response time of four minutes. Officials said the city would ultimately need to hire 100 more firefighters, a 40 percent increase over the existing 252, to comply. But the 13-member NFPA Standards Council still needs to take up the proposal. It will consider it at a meeting July 10-13. And the standards wonít have teeth unless Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials decide to enforce it, although it could become a liability risk regardless. State officials have not yet reviewed the proposal. Initially, when asked whether the 42 positions would be needed for the safety of citizens and firefighters, Cooper said, "I believe those are necessary, at a minimum." He noted that Greensboro and Charlotte already have four firefighters per truck and Raleigh also does on most days. "They took a more aggressive approach to staffing," he said. But later he said he wouldnít be asking for "anywhere near 42" more firefighters if not for the likely new standards. He also said that Durhamís department compares well to the rest of the state. He said he would want to increase the minimum on three rescue squad units from two to three firefighters, adding a total of nine for all shifts. And he said he would want to have four firefighters per truck at outlying stations, adding possibly nine more firefighters. He said that a four- to five-year period for phase-in would be reasonable. "Weíre doing a great job now. I know that in order to be competitive and to do as well as the rest of the folks, we need the same resources as the rest of the industry," Cooper said. Cooper said that in the outlying stations he would like to increase staffing to four firefighters per truck. Under a "two-in, two-out" rule adopted by OSHA, firefighters cannot enter a burning building unless there are two firefighters outside and two that can go in -- except in life-threatening cases. In the inner city -- where stations are close together ó the second truck responds fast enough to prevent the lower staffing from being a problem, Cooper said. Cooper, however, sees a problem with the outlying stations that are farther apart. "The reason we go inside is because thatís the most effective way to put out the fire," he said. Councilman Dan Hill said he would prefer nine or fewer more firefighters. "Frankly, I donít get the feeling from the fire chief that he was selling 42 people all that hard," Hill said. "When you have a fire, and Iíve had a fire at my house, there are not enough firefighters. But we will never have enough firemen and we will never have enough policemen." Councilman Floyd McKissick said he thinks that nine to 18 additional firefighters would "more than equip us to protect our citizens." Only Councilwoman Brenda Burnette said she wants to add the 42 firefighters now. "I think of the growth we have experienced, the growth we continue to experience," she said. The savings from the likely trimming of planned firefighters might not last long. Both Hill and McKissick expressed concerns about a senior planner and associate planner to be cut from the City-County Planning Department in the proposed budget. Restoring those positions would add more than $100,000, which would presumably be split with the county. "How in the world, with all the growth we have here, are you going to be able to deliver the service thatís required?" Hill asked. "Weíve got one shot at each piece of property thatís being developed." City officials said they would be able to provide the same level of service through efficiencies gained by technology upgrades. But McKissick said he remained concerned and asked the administration to look at increasing staffing on planning review. "I want to make sure we adequately serve the needs of this community in light of the rapid growth and development that weíre experiencing," he said. Hill also said he wants the planning staff to cut down on the boards and commissions that it currently supports from the present 25. But Councilman Erick Larson said that would require the backing of the County Commissioners since they split the departmentís costs. Besides the possible increases for planning, several council members reiterated their unhappiness about the elimination of eight city workers in the proposed budget. Two have since found positions elsewhere in the city. Keeping the remainder, who were placed on paid leave last week until the council decides whether to cut their posts, would cost more than $366,000. The city administration has already said those jobs arenít needed. "You have a brand-new manager coming in," Burnette said. "I would just like for us to hold back on major organizational issues until sheís here." But Larson said later: "City employment is not a jobs program. Itís about value to the organization." A $1.8 million maintenance initiative also came under some scrutiny, particularly the $215,000 to hire eight additional maintenance workers. The city is also enlisting TROSA to care for 16 of its parks at a cost of $29,850. "Why do you need additional people on top of what TROSA is doing?" Hill asked. But Kendall Abernathy, director of property and facilities management, said the city has never had enough money and people to maintain its parks and buildings properly. The request for increased maintenance workers also comes as the city spends hours on tasks like locking down a TV and VCR and hanging bulletin boards, according to a report passed around the budget session. The city spent nine man-hours to lock down a TV and VCR in a break room so it would not be stolen, two man-hours to hang a bulletin board, two hours to get prices for materials and eight man-hours to hang banners in the Civic Center. Abernathy said that those hours would include any time for buying equipment. The listing also shows that the city spent 9.5 man-hours to "make [a] frame to hang pictures in Ralpheleís office" on May 7 through May 9. The total cost for material and labor was listed at $465.60. Ralphele Reels is among the workers who would lose their job in the budget plan. Abernathy said the amount was a mistake and that it only took about a half an hour to complete the job. "I hope thatís a mistake," Hill said.

MAY 18, 2001

Fire standards throw a wrench in budget

By RONNIE GLASSBERG : The Herald-Sun May 18, 2001 : 9:52 pm ET
DURHAM -- New national fire standards adopted this week have thrown an $800,000 wrench into Durhamís upcoming city budget. The city will have to hire 42 firefighter recruits and make other changes to comply with the standards adopted Wednesday by the National Fire Protection Association. The increase comes during a tight budget year. The city started out work on the 2001-02 budget with a $10 million budget shortfall and has been searching for cuts to avoid a property-tax increase. The $800,000 allocation was added late this week to Interim City Manager Greg Betheaís proposed budget, which he will present to the City Council on Monday, said Fire Chief Otis Cooper. "At this point, I think itís probably going to be a miracle if weíre going to be able to balance the budget without a tax increase," said City Councilman Floyd McKissick. To fully comply with the new standards would cost the city an additional $4 million a year or roughly 3 cents per $100 valuation on the cityís property-tax rate. That would force tax increases over the next few years or the equivalent in cuts. The associationís new standards call for at least four firefighters on each pumper and ladder truck, up from three firefighters. The standards also set a maximum acceptable response time of no more than five minutes for the first arriving unit ó 90 percent of the time ó and nine minutes for the rest. To comply, Durham would need 100 firefighters, a 40 percent increase over the existing 252, over the next four years, Cooper said. The 42 recruits would join an academy that starts in January. The city also would need to add three new fire stations at a cost of $1.8 million each to meet the new response-time requirements. Two of the stations are already planned. A third would be built in Treyburn around 2003, Cooper said. "What it does is provide for a safer work environment and enhanced response," Cooper said. "I certainly feel that Durham is entitled to that enhanced service and response as anywhere else on the planet." Regulatory agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will use the new standards to assess whether the cityís Fire Department is meeting minimum safety requirements for its employees and citizens, Bethea wrote in a memo Friday to council members. "The failure of the city to aggressively comply with this standard would place the city, its employees and citizens in substantial risk," Bethea wrote. Cooper said the Fire Departmentís first unit currently responds within five minutes 83 percent to 84 percent of the time. But on Farrington Road, where a new fire station is planned, the response time is 7.5 minutes, Cooper said. Mayor Nick Tennyson said heís not going to second-guess the new standards. "Iím not a fire-fighting expert. Iím not a safety expert," he said. "Thereís no question that this would affect the budget. This is not money that anybody had counted on." The administration advised the council about the possible new standards in a March 15 memo but didnít include a cost estimate at the time. Holding off on the additional staff could create future budget problems by reducing the phase-in time. That would force the city to implement a hefty property-tax increase ó or tough belt tightening ó in one year. "It appears that they are standards that we as a community should respect and try to follow to the maximum extent possible," McKissick said.

MAY 21, 2001

Duke agrees to pay city $300,000 for campus fire services

By RONNIE GLASSBERG : The Herald-Sun May 21, 2001 : 9:13 pm ET DURHAM -- Duke University officials have agreed to pay the city of Durham $300,000 a year for fire service, Interim City Manager Greg Bethea said Monday. The Duke board of trustees and the City Council still have to approve the agreement, but Bethea used the payment in balancing the 2001-02 budget, he said. The figure is slightly lower than the $325,000 city officials had hoped to receive from Duke using the same formula that brings Chapel Hill $850,000 from UNC. Duke Executive Vice President Tallman Trask III had expressed interest in the payment being part of a multiple year agreement, Bethea said. In December, Duke agreed to pay the city $559,900 for underbilled water use. The "missing water" saga had brought heavy criticism to the city administration. In the past, the city has tried unsuccessfully to get Duke, which as a nonprofit is exempt from property taxes, to make payments in lieu of taxes. City officials saw fire service as one area for which Durham might be compensated. Former City Manager P. Lamont Ewell had proposed a procedure for getting reimbursement from Duke and had expected a deal to be wrapped up in January. In a report last year, the Durham Budget Office recommended that the council pursue a payment in lieu of taxes from Duke or a contribution of $325,311 for fire protection this year. "When one considers that the state pays the city for fire protection for North Carolina Central University based on the square feet of property, a contribution by Duke in the same proportion seems perfectly reasonable," the report says. The state uses a calculation of $29 per 1,000 square feet for state buildings. Durham receives $75,000, mostly for N.C. Central University. According to the budget report, Duke owns 2.8 square miles of property in the city limits, approximately 3 percent of the total. "On that basis," the report states, "the proposed payment also seems very reasonable, since it would cover approximately 2 percent of the Fire Departmentís budget." Trask and John Burness, Dukeís vice president for public affairs, could not be reached for comment. In recent years, the conversation with Duke "was absolutely at a brick wall," Mayor Nick Tennyson said in an earlier interview. Duke might be more receptive now, he said then, with the city using a six-digit figure instead a million-dollar one. In an interview last year, Trask opened the door for paying the city for protection. "We provide our own police and security, but we rely on the city for fire," he said at the time. Other universities pay their host cities for protection. According to a 1998 city report, Stanford University paid Palo Alto, Calif., roughly $4 million a year for fire service.