Norwood mayor, fire department resigns during town council meeting

Norwood fire department, mayor resign

NORWOOD, N.C. — The mayor of Norwood, along with the members of the town’s fire department, unexpectedly announced their resignations during Monday night’s town council meeting.

Brian Hardman, assistant fire chief and member of the Norwood Fire Department for 23 years, was the first to resign after asking the council why they wanted to disband the fire department.

Fire Chief John Lambeth then quit, followed by Mayor Beverly Johnson.

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According to the Stanly News and Press, Johnson blamed the fire department's sudden resignations on campaign agendas that included cutting taxes at whatever costs.

“This is the way they’re living up to their campaign promises,” Johnson said. “I do not like the way they have treated people. They don’t have feelings for people who look after you.”

Minutes after the resignations of roughly 15 firefighters, town leaders contacted Stanly County 911 and EMS, and Center Rural VFD is now providing primary coverage to the town.

Commissioner John Mullis emailed Channel 9 the following after the meeting:

For several months the Town of Norwood has been looking at cost saving measures and service duplication within the Town of Norwood. One of the areas that the Board has looked at has been fire delivery services. A few months ago after board approval, I began dialogue with Center Rural VFD to see if they had an interest in providing Fire Delivery Services for the town. Currently, they provide the Town of Norwood First Responder coverage as well as extended coverage to a subdivision that exceeds the municipal service district.
Currently Center Rural is paid $15,000 annually for their services to the town. As a natural progression, it made sense to the current board to determine if there was an interest and if so, the costs, improvement of fire delivery service, as well as logistical and personnel transition considerations.
That being said, the process is currently underway to gather the necessary data in order to make an informed decision regarding the viability of the Town of Norwood contracting additional services to the Town.  As of yet, nothing has been determined as discussions are still underway and no presentation for approval has been developed or presented. Given the public knowledge of the discussions, it is our opinion that length of the process in determining the feasibility was likely the deciding factor in their resignations given the uncertainty of the outcome. While it is unfortunate, the process itself is lengthy given the complexity.

Mullis went on to say that the town will convene at a later date to discuss a variety of options and discussions will continue with Center Rural VFD and that the town is not interested in a merger of departments but rather a contract arrangement.

The Norwood Fire Department was founded in 1945.