‘A passionate, vocal minority ruled on fire consolidation’
Now that I have your attention, allow me to explain. We did indeed have a packed house, perhaps 250 or more people, to attend the special CALLED meeting (not an emergency meeting) to discuss Fire Department consolidation, and I am glad that our citizens are passionate. Passion for our community is part of what makes Fayetteville such a great place to live.
Nevertheless, those who came and spoke against fire consolidation only represent a very small portion (by definition, a minority) of the total population of Fayetteville (which is somewhere between 16,000 and 17,000 at this time).
There were a number of people who called or emailed City Hall to express support for consolidation. This group also represents a minority, an even smaller one than those who opposed consolidation, in fact. The most vocal (and organized) group we heard from strongly opposed consolidation.
However, I suspect the majority of city residents were not even aware that the subject was being discussed. I have no proof, but I also suspect that had we done a scientific poll of the population and presented the choice between keeping the Fayetteville Fire Department and raising taxes on the order of 20-25 percent vs. consolidation with the Fayette County Fire Department at no additional expense, there would be many more people who would be in favor of consolidation.
For those of you who may be upset that the City Council considered consolidation again, please understand that the members of the City council are sworn to promote the good of Fayetteville.
Therefore, if there is a prospect of providing the same level of services, and potentially a higher level of services, while also saving the taxpayers money, we on the City Council have a fiduciary responsibility to at least consider the proposal.
There are questions to be argued as to whether in fact fire services would be as good and at a lesser cost. There are also issues of trust and loss of control that must be considered.
Obviously consolidation would require a significant level of trust in the county government and some people are not comfortable with that level of trust. One suggestion that I think had merit, was to form some sort of oversight committee so that the city would have some say in how the county allocated resources in the future in a consolidated environment.
The county has been providing 911 and EMS services to the city for years and I have no doubt that they are providing high quality services. I therefore see no reason to think that the county would not provide high quality fire services as well.
There were some at the meeting who said that they had not heard any explanation as to why consolidation might be a good thing, so I would like to make a few points that I was not able to communicate effectively at our called meeting.
The county fire and EMS system utilizes some different types of vehicles than the city. Of course, the county has the ambulances, but it also utilizes what is called a “squad,” which is a heavy duty pickup truck equipped with both a 350-gallon water tank and is also equipped with medical gear.
This allows a vehicle that is much less expensive to own and operate to be used to fight brush fires and also serve as a backup to the ambulance, so that advanced life support services can be provided while the ambulance is on another call.
Not only is the squad cheaper to operate and able to get into tighter spaces, it also saves wear and tear on the firetrucks, extending their lives by several years, thus providing additional savings.
This makes such good sense to me both on cost and on service level. As our population continues to age, we will need a higher percentage of medical services with respect to fire-fighting, which currently only accounts for 2 percent of our calls. Having a second vehicle available to provide life support is absolutely a value-add.
In closing, I want to point out that had the consolidation been approved, the city would have more personnel and equipment inside the city limits, not less. None of our fire stations would have been closed.
In fact, we would have had a third fire station in the city approximately two years sooner.
Furthermore, with the proposal defeated, the city may now not receive $1 million from SPLOST proceeds to complete the Hood Avenue and Ga. Highway 92 realignment.
Positive things continue to happen in Fayetteville, and we’ll get the road finished somehow, but perhaps not as soon as we had hoped.
Thank you for your time and please continue to express your concerns so that we can continue to make Fayetteville an even better place to live, work and play.
Greg Clifton, mayor