Fayette may back off fire aid to F’ville

A Fayette County fire truck parked in Fayetteville recently. Photo/Ben Nelems.

Will county fire trucks roll or ‘wait’ on F’ville fires? Rapson: ‘We can’t be augmenting Fayetteville fire services’

Fayette County officials are studying a potential reduction of fire services provided to residents in the city of Fayetteville, in the wake of a second failed attempt to consolidate the city and county fire departments.

It could mean that county fire trucks will no longer automatically roll on the initial dispatch to a reported fire, leaving city trucks to be the first responder on all city calls, explained County Administrator Steve Rapson. Once the first city unit arrives, it can call for the county’s help if needed under a mutual aid arrangement, Rapson explained.

Currently, under an automatic aid agreement, the county fire trucks are dispatched the same time as Fayetteville fire trucks to any fire call in the city limits.

The elimination of the automatic aid agreement between the city and county would have a “devastating effect” on residents in the city and county who rely on having a quick response via the closest available unit, Fayettevile Fire Chief Alan Jones said Tuesday.

“If the county were to pull back on automatic aid, the city might have to make some adjustments and we might not be able to respond in the county because we have more area to keep covered in the city,” Jones said. “I think that’s a horrible way to move forward.”

The idea that county fire trucks might be delayed to a fire call in Fayetteville is news to most Fayetteville council members, as only Mayor Greg Clifton could recall the matter being suggested during a meeting with him, Councilman Mickey Edwards, County Commission Chairman Steve Brown, County Administrator Steve Rapson and Fire Chief David Scarbrough following the city’s retreat and prior to the joint city-county meeting.

Other than Edwards, the other four council members told The Citizen they had not heard of the county potentially changing its response to city fire calls if consolidation were to be denied. Edwards said he couldn’t recall when he heard it, but he recalled that adjustments would have to be made.

Rapson noted that the change to a potential “mutual aid” agreement is being studied by Fire Chief David Scarbrough, and no final decision has been made. Under mutual aid, the county would not automatically roll to all city fire calls, but instead would be “on call” to assist if the city decides it needs to call for help, Rapson explained.

With the lack of consolidation and the potential for future Fayetteville annexations to affect revenues in the county’s fire tax, the time is now to evaluate ways to increase efficiency, Rapson said.

“The board of commissioners’ position is that they [Fayetteville] need to budget enough to stand up their own fire department independently of the county,” Rapson said. “... We can’t be augmenting Fayetteville fire services.”

Rapson noted that if the city only has six firefighters on duty when a fire call goes out for example, and there are eight to 10 people needed on the scene to fight that fire, the county would be providing the extra needed personnel.

“That may look the exact same under mutual aid, the only difference being we get there a little later than sooner,” Rapson said. “We wouldn’t be called until they said, ‘Yeah, there’s a fire here, dispatch a county fire crew.”

Jones said a switch to mutual aid response with the county would also hurt county residents who currently have a Fayetteville fire crew first on the scene due to the location of fire stations.

It also would stand to hurt Fayetteville residents as the city is up for an ISO review in October, and if the city and county switch to a mutual aid agreement, the city won’t get credit for the presence of the county firefighters ... much like the county got credit for the city firefighters in its 2011 ISO review, Jones said.

If the city’s ISO rating were to rise, it is likely to cost homeowners with higher insurance rates.

Jones added that the city and county have worked under automatic aid since 1989 and it was widely expanded in 1998. Jones said he looked forward to working with Scarbrough in maximizing the efficiency of responding to fire calls.

“Until I find out exactly what the county plans to do, I am just kind of speculating, but to eliminate all automatic aid and make it mutual aid is a concern,” Jones said. “I can’t speculate what the city’s reaction would be if that were to happen.”

The Fayetteville City Council voted 3-2 April 23 to deny the consolidation proposal pitched by county officials, with councilmen Paul Oddo and Mickey Edwards favoring the merger.

The vote came at the end of a heated meeting which featured only one speaker from the public in favor of consolidation and more than two dozen in opposition.

At that meeting, city officials showed that it will cost a tax increase of about two-thirds of a mill — equal to $48 a year on a home valued at $200,000 — to build, equip and staff a new city fire station off Veterans Parkway.

Due to the annexation of the acreage in West Fayetteville connected to the Pinewood Atlanta Studios development, the county will not collect a fire tax on that property because the city runs its own fire service.

Had consolidation been approved, the county would have started assessing its 3.07-mill fire tax to all city properties including homeowners and businesses, providing a significant additional revenue to the county which in turn would have absorbed all of the city’s full-time fire employees at positions in the county fire department that would have resulted in at least a small raise for each employee, county officials have said.

Nothing was revealed about how capital assets like buildings and fire trucks would have been handled had the consolidation gone through.

Fayetteville residents do pay an EMS tax to the county to pay for the county providing EMS and ambulance services to all calls originating in the city limits.

The county has 11 fire stations to service the unincorporated county, Brooks, Woolsey and Tyrone. The city meanwhile operates just two fire stations to cover the entire city, though the West Fayetteville station is slotted for the near future to deal with growth around Pinewood and Piedmont Fayette Hospital in particular.

— Additional reporting by Ben Nelms

fayco
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Another power play by Steve Brown

this is an attempt by Steve Brown to gain more control. His attempt to blackmail Fayetteville is beyond contempt! The current system has worked fine and to play with citizens safety for politicl control is shameful. This reminds me of a few years ago when the commision couldn't control sheriff Johnson and tried to make the marshals into a county wide police force.

mrobinson_ptc
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Please remind your friends in District 3...

...this is the price you pay when Steve Brown is in office.

Night Train
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Citizens Pay Attention

This is par for the course with the County Administrator and the Chairman.
This would not only affect the city but also the county residence. First and foremost are the citizens on the East side of Fayette County. There are NO fire stations in the area of East 54, McDonough Rd, County Line Road, South Jeff Davis, Callaway Road and McElroy Road. This area is covered by the City fire units when there is a fire and it used to be covered by the city on Medical calls but after the previous consolidation failed someone changed the dispatch to the area for medical calls. (The city and county run together on the East side, the city units are closest and first on the scene most of the time. The next closest fire station to that area has a response of 8-10 minutes. Every minute makes a big difference when you are dealing with fire.

Putting your citizens and your staff at risk for your political agenda is pathetic and you should re evaluate your career path.

Steve Rapson and the County Chairman live where? Oh that would be Peachtree City and this ridiculous idea of cutting off automatic add between the county and the city does not affect them at all. Citizens need to pay attention and voice your concerns or they will do what they want regardless of who it puts in dangers way. This is another way of trying to pay back the city for not consolidating and Mayor Clifton, are you now going to acknowledge push back from your buddy Steve Brown? Bullying the city is not the way to work together and provide the best service for the citizens. AS the article stated it comes back to Tax dollars lost by the county in the Pinewood Studio annexation.

ISO rating will change for the city and the county if this happens so all citizens will have an increase in their homeowners insurance except those that live in PTC (Steve and Steve).

It would be nice to see Chief David Scarbrough stand up and inform Steve Rapson that he is perfectly capable of running the fire service and to get out of the way so he can do his job.

Husband and Fat...
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4 more

There Are four more commissioners to look at also. Three live in Fayetteville or the county. And the fourth, promotes himself as a religious man for the people.

But you're 100% correct this is about tax dollars lost during the annexation for Pinewood and the lost revenue from the tax abatement's

I think this was quietly discussed among elected with the hope that it would be approved. Now that it was not, something has to give.

It's an everyday business decision that will bring all back to the table. I think both Fayetteville and the county have a small issue related to funding emergency service. Either taxes go up or consolidation has to occur.

Night Train
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Difference if City Property tax and County Fire tax

Consolidation is not the answer for the city residence. The city has to raise taxes and that is largely because they have not done so in a very long time. The loss of property due to annexation also results in a loss of power by the county and that as you know is an issue in itself. In recent talks of consolidation, the county stated the Fire Tax would be enforced in the city and the property taxes would go away. The issue here is that right now the property tax in Fayetteville pays for Fire service in Fayetteville. However, the fire tax pays for service all over the county and if the city were to consolidate with the county the county could raise the fire tax and the citizens would then possibly be paying for a project in Brooks, Woolsey or an area other than that of the city. That is why you remain separate. Let the city raise taxes to build the department they need and let the county raise fire taxes for the projects they have or to recover the lost tax revenue. Remember, Peachtee City is also looking at annexing land on Highway 54. They county has issues coming from both directions.

moelarrycurly
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Night Train

What is your solution to make up for the lost tax revenue the county is experiencing from recent annexations? And no, it is not just one annexation. And there are more coming.

Night Train
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Moelarrycurly

With annexation the county incurs a loss of revenue due to the loss of fire tax for said annexed property. The city in turn will gain the tax through property tax. Steve Rapson and Steve Brown wanted to consolidate to prevent this from being an issue. The county will have to evaluate the need for service and the area they will need to service. If Fayetteville builds their new station in the Pinewoods area then the county will have a decrease in call volume in the area because the city has a large area out 54 West. To recover the lost revenue will be difficult. The possibility of decreased service delivery may lead to decreases in the work force or the closing of one station and moving staff and equipment to another. There are a number of items that have to be looked at and I am sure Steve Rapson can come up with a way to recover what he has lost. If the county wants to maintain the staffing levels (which they should) then a tax increase for the county residence may be the answer. I am sure they don't like that idea because it is around election time. MLC, let me pose the same question to you. What can be done to recover the lost revenue from annexation?

moelarrycurly
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Night Train

The same as you and h&f say. Raise tax or cut service or a blend of both. I live in PTC and what this is leading to is eventually, county will be reduced in size enough due to annexations and will have to rely on cities for services. The smaller tax base of the county will not be able to absorb the cost of running a FD. Might be a while, but the planning needs to start, since the annexations have already started. The fire tax collection and distribution, well, that will be a big part of the planning. I think we are all saying the same thing here. I was mildly surprised at the lack of feedback from county residents when the discussion on consolidation went on. I don't know why, either apathy or a feeling of what else can be done, my guess. It is inevitable. Good luck.

One more thing. County now has District 2,4 & 5 commissioners at their beck and call, for the most part. That is a heck of a lot more than those in 1 & 3 now have. Something else to think about, too, thanks to 'da judge.

yellowdog
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Steve Brown retribution

This is just one more example of Steve Brown's actions when someone doesn't go along with him. Mutual aid and automatic aid agreements have been in place and beneficial to both the City and County for many years! The numbers I have seen reflect a much greater City response to County, by a ratio of 4 to 1 until 2013! It dropped dramatically from 2013 to the present. Now, rather than have the closest unit respond 911 will dispatch County units first to calls in the County and City units first to calls in the City. This puts lives at risk! Just because Steve Brown did not get his way!

mrobinson_ptc
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Retribution NEVER HAPPENS...

...call the following for more information:

- Former PTC Public Works Officials
- Former DAPC board members
- Former City and County Attorneys
- Former (and rehired) Fayette County IS Directors
- Former FCDA staff and board members

How could you ever think that there could EVER be sour grapes or bad feelings where our Fearless Leader is involved???? Oh, sarcasm intended, for sure.

Hope everybody makes a good decision on May 20!

Oh, and to save the Brown backers the trouble, I know, I know, I'm a liberal, effeminate, mass-transit loving, racist know-it-all internet troll who in no way shakes up the tea party express status quo by revealing the special interest agendas THEY have. Oh, and Logsdon.

TinCan
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Come on!

What's a little blackmail among friends.

Husband and Fat...
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You can't blame 1

My guess is this came from the county manager. The county needs the added funding.

How can you blame the chair when it takes 2 more to allow this to pass. One would think Barlow, Ognio and Oddo would be against this for a number of reasons.

thcomments
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Sure you can blame 1

After all, Stevie has multiple commission members who say 'How high?' every time he says 'Jump!'.

Guessing this came from the county manager is a joke in itself. Rapson has been Stevie's lap dog since they worked together to destroy the Peachtree City Development Authority years ago. They were in cahoots then, still are.

Did you ever even consider the similarity between their actions then and Stevie's latest move on the FCDA? Same old M.O., defame/destroy/fire anyone who dares to disagree with him. Stevie may be in charge, but he is no leader!

Husband and Fat...
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You have to point to the 4

This is exactly what I have been preaching since the last commission election. 2 of the 4 commissioners were hand picked by the chairman because he knew he had puppy dogs to follow him. The other 2 are so weak it's the same thing. When Barlow and Oddo had the hissy fit before voting for chair this year, then backing down, it was confirmed. The 4 know their place and it ain't in a leadership roll.

Since Mayor Clifton confirmed that this was discussed, they all should have known that something like this could happen.

It appears that the county needs the added funding as much as the city. The only thing that kept this from being approved a few weeks ago is fear of the unknown job changes. A rational person would have the two sides meet to develop the plan, so the rank and file professionals understand what the changes bring forth.

I would have expected Oddo or Barlow to have brought this up at the open meeting since Rapson and Brown discussed this with the city. Even Oddos brother wanted to approve the consolidation.

Brown may not have done a great job as mayor, but I have to say that he has improved as commissioner and I find his work ethic second to none. My problem has been with the 4 weak commissioners.

Husband and Fat...
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Really, lol

Who didn't see that coming?

Silence Dogood
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Drama.......

Can't We All Just Get Along?......

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