By DEUCE NIVEN
More than two hours of talks Tuesday with county leaders may be the beginning of healing for a fractures Nakina Fire & Rescue department, Columbus County Commissioners Chairman Charles McDowell said.
Finances for the department were frozen following a Feb. 18 vote to replace its board of directors. New board members have said the old board’s refusal to leave has stymied their efforts to move the department forward.
Old board members have challenged the legality of the vote to oust them.
Both sides have lawyers who say they are right, and McDowell last month said an expensive and protracted court battle could threaten the department’s existence.
“We did meet with several folks this morning and began a dialogue,” McDowell said.
John Ward, who chairs the old board, and new board chairman Sammy Jacobs were joined by McDowell, County Manager Bill Clark, and Emergency Services Director Kay Worley.
“We discussed a whole lot of things,” McDowell said. “There were questions asked and questions answered, which was a step in the right direction.
“It was very pleasing to get the groups to meet.”
No final decisions were made, but McDowell said he was optimistic that the two sides can come together to build leadership to restore salaries to paid employees and to get bills paid. Other than some truck payments, most bills have not been paid since March.
“I am very cautiously optimistic,” McDowell said. “We are all of the opinion that all of us have to work together, and there has to be some compromise to move forward.
“I came away really positive.”
With the July 4 holiday this week, both sides agreed to meet again next week, McDowell said.
Look for more on this story in the July 10 Tabor-Loris Tribune print edition.