F’ville, county still at a standoff on fire response

Fayetteville Mayor Greg Clifton. Photo/Ben Nelms.

The standoff over fire services between Fayette County and Fayetteville is still heating up. Fayetteville on July 11 said the county agreed to automatic aid in 1997 but the county on July 14 maintains that the agreement was only for mutual aid.

Fayette County announced two weeks ago that it would be terminating the automatic aid agreement with the Fayetteville Fire Dept. on Aug. 1. Now the city has fired back, with Mayor Greg Clifton issuing a July 11 letter to the county stating that the automatic aid agreement based on state requirements has existed essentially since 1989 and requesting the county retract its unilateral move the mayor argued places homes and businesses and the lives of citizens at risk.

County Manager Steve Rapson responded on July 14 saying his position on June 27 still stands: the agreement was for mutual aid, not automatic aid and telling Clifton the city’s idea of automatic aid is “not as clear as you represent.”

The current standoff between the city and county began just over two weeks ago with Rapson’s June 27 letter to Clifton saying, “The current practice of providing automatic aid, which was started some time ago by previous fire chiefs, was never approved by Fayette County. Effective Aug. 1, our fire services will not provide this direct automatic aid type of response for supplemental fire suppression as contained within the existing 911 CAD (computer-aided dispatch) dispatch system. The existing dispatching protocols within the 911 CAD systems will be amended accordingly.”

Rapson in the June 27 letter said the county, “would be glad to consider any automatic aid proposals which the fire chiefs could agree to and subsequently put them forward for board consideration and approval.”

The situation, at least from Fayetteville’s perspective, changed on July 10. Fire Chief Alan Jones at the City Council work session produced a number of documents which suggested that the automatic aid agreement between the city and county was based in a 1999 state-required service delivery strategy agreement between the county and the municipalities and cannot be altered without the agreement of each party.

Mayor Greg Clifton in a July 11 letter to Commission Chairman Steve Brown requested that the county cease its planned termination of the mutual aid agreement on Aug. 1.

Clifton in the July 11 letter said the city disagreed that the practice of providing automatic aid was initiated by previous fire chiefs and was never approved by the Fayette County Commission.

“Mr. Rapson refers to the 1989 mutual aid agreement which is somewhat misleading,” Clifton said. “The title is actually the ‘Agreement of Mutual Aid and Mutual Response.’ When you review the agreement there is a very clear distinction between what is described as mutual aid and mutual response.”

Clifton said mutual aid is described as a request by either party to provide supplemental fire and emergency services while mutual response is described as a “first response assignment” (automatic aid) based on the boundaries agreed upon by each fire chief.

“This agreement was approved by the city and county and signed by the mayor and commission chairman on Aug. 16, 1989,” Clifton said. “This agreement was the basis for the automatic aid practices that exist today. On July 1, 1997, the city and county fire chiefs signed an automatic aid agreement as permitted by the 1989 agreement. Other changes have been made to the automatic aid agreement over the years as approved by the respective fire chiefs consistent with the 1989 agreement.”

Firing back on July 14, Rapson in a letter to Clifton said the 1989 agreement is “not as clear-cut as you represent.”

“Fayette County knows the term ‘automatic aid.’ No use of the term ‘automatic aid’ occurs anywhere but the documents signed by the respective fire chiefs. Fayette County has used the term ‘automatic aid’ in agreements with other jurisdictions, just not with the city of Fayetteville.”

Clifton in the letter noted that all jurisdictions approved and filed a “Service Delivery Strategy” agreement in 1999 which was filed with the Ga. Dept. of Community Affairs (DCA) as required by House Bill 489.

“This agreement specifically states that ‘Fayetteville and Fayette County have implemented an automatic aid agreement’ for fire services, and the Aug. 16, 1989 agreement of mutual aid and mutual response and the July 1, 1997 automatic aid agreement are specifically referenced in the approved service delivery strategy agreement,” Clifton said.

An updated service delivery strategy was approved by each local jurisdiction in 2007 and “The agreement specifically states that ‘Fayette County and the City of Fayetteville, in addition to mutual aid, participate in automatic aid where the closest available unit responds to the emergency call irrespective of political boundaries,” said Clifton.

Referencing House Bill 489 and the service delivery strategy signed in 1997, Rapson said, “At that time city and county officials took to a blank slate in learning how to reduce duplication of services. The (service delivery strategy document, or SDS) contains a description of the services which are provided and which entity provides the services. The terms and conditions of the individual intergovernmental agreements, not the SDS document, provide the requirements for the service at issue.”

Clifton said that by not following the agreements the county is acting unilaterally and is “unnecessarily placing the lives of citizens of Fayetteville and Fayette County and their homes and businesses at risk.”

“Any changes to this agreement would require mutual consideration and approval by each party and an updated ‘Service Delivery Strategy’ would have to be filed with DCA,” Clifton said. “We therefore respectfully request that the county immediately cease their planned termination of the automatic aid services effective Aug. 1 and we further request that our respective fire and administrative staff initiate discussions to revise and amend (the current agreement).”

Rapson in the July 14 letter held firm on the county’s position, saying there has never been an automatic aid agreement based on the 1989 agreement for supplemental fire suppression and that the current practice of providing automatic aid was an arrangement between previous fire chiefs.

As in his previous letter, Rapson on July 14 said the county would be willing to consider an automatic aid proposal.

Rapson said the county would continue to honor the commission-approved intergovernmental agreement that includes only the properties annexed on the city’s west side (in 2013) but not the remainder of properties in west Fayetteville.

City Manager Joe Morton at the July 11 council meeting said the city attorney agreed with the findings.

Coincidently or not, the matter of of terminating the automatic aid surfaced after the city’s recent decision, the second in three years, not to consolidate fire services with Fayette County.

cstanley27
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hometown

You are correct hometown when all else fails follow the money!

FF 24 you did not answer the question your dad is down..... closest EMT to start CPR? or across town response only?

Sorry you'll never change my mind the politics are stinking the place up!

I have never joined on spreading lies I have always brought legitimate concerns out. I know most of the FFD and I don't know any I have ever heard say they did not need aid or vice versa....

Hope its laid to rest soon.

Hometown Guy
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Golden Rule

Mr. Rapson is now disagreeing with a play on words on Mutual Response and not calling it Automatic Aid. A play on words is his specialty! Mr. Brown or Mr. Rapson, can you honestly tell the citizens without lying that dropping Automatic Aid is the best for residents in the City or County and it will not affect Lives or Property? After talking to several firefighters (City, County, and other departments) this is not the best solution and will affect Lives or Property! You are using this tactic to get consolidation brought up again for financial gain for Fayette County, but many people may not realize that Fayetteville residents already pays 5.71 mills to Fayette County. (https://etax.dor.ga.gov/ptd/cds/csheets/LGS_Georgia_County_Ad_Valorem_Ta...)

I live in the unincorporated part of Fayette County, but was wondering if the Fayetteville City Council members are wearing blinders? Why do you think Fayette County is trying so hard to get the Fire Dept? Can’t see the writing on the wall that money is coming in down the road from Pinewood development! You should stand up for your Fire Department like Peachtree City Council did. (http://www.thecitizennews.com/articles/04-20-2014/ptc-mayor-well-keep-ou...) I support all Public Safety Personnel! I hate it when politicians get involved!
Thanks to all Public Safety Personnel for your Service!

Mr. Rapson maybe you could use the word "HELP"! Merriam-Webster defines Help as: to do something that makes it easier for someone to do a job, to deal with a problem, to aid or assist someone: to make something less severe. For those newer residents "461-HELP" was old emergency number in Fayette County before 911 was established. Yes, I have been around a long time. A fast response by the closest fire or ems vehicle is the best option in any case. I believe in the Golden Rule "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" Luke 6:31. Isn't that what Automatic Aid truly is? HELPing each other when HELP is needed, regardless of lines on map? Sticking together in the time of need is one thing America is about!

Mr. Stanley, I also have friends to that are affected by this decision of dropping Automatic Aid in both the City and County. Rapson only portrayed the City of Fayetteville was affected in the article last week, when in reality both City and County areas are greatly affected. The Fire Station up in the Pavilion is closer than any of Fayette County units in many areas including Pine Trail and Banks Road.

Commissioners, you need to stop this! You are elected and are you willing to let Brown and Rapson lead you down the dead end road of political suicide? There are a few elected officials in Fayetteville (Clifton and Oddo) that are more interested in following what Brown says than actually doing what is best for their constituents. You should have run for Fayette County if you want to follow Brown. Thank goodness you didn't!

Elected Officials : Do the right thing! It is OK!

Night Train
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Well Said

I could not have said it better.

cstanley27
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response to calls

Firefighter 24 if your dad had a cardiac condition would you want 92 dispatched to his house on Pine Trail to possibly start CPR or get a line, start an airway? Or just let the medic truck get through traffic from south of the court house and then start? Oh by the way its also a manpower call so now your delaying his chances even more because two guys won't get him up.

Also, the city did not threaten pulling coverage....the county politicians are doing that

Sorry if I offended you or anyone else but I don't play politics when it comes to a life city or county

Firefighter_24
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calm down

Sorry. I forgot to add that there is also an engine located at same station. Even if this did not happen you were still waiting for the COUNTY truck and the COUNTY squad to get there to push life saving drugs and transport. But now, you will have the county engine and medic truck respond quickly. If they are out Station 1 is right up the street.
If you feel so vocal please go to the meeting tonight to voice your issues. But like I said earlier.....citizens and firefighters made it known that the county was not needed or wanted. The county were called cowards, and it was said that we would rather leave someone dying in the street.
Also, you are right....the city did not threaten to pull coverage. That came from your firefighters. Your firefighters, the same ones that applauded all the lies at the meeting, the same ones who got on social media and told citizens that the quality of care/service would reduce if we consolidated,ran around and told county folks that they were looking into a 3rd party ambulance company whice would cut county ems.
I promise that you have not offended me in any way. Just trying to stick up for county.

Night Train
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Meeting?

FF 24 are you going to be there tonight?

cstanley27
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unprofessional county commissioners

My folks and a lot of family and friends live off Highway 85 / Pine Trail through to Banks Road. I feel the Commissioner that is driving all this does not have anyone's best interest at heart. Why would he pull the closest EMT/Rescue apparatus to these county residents? The closest EMT's are at the Pavillion, the city station 92. It came to my attention a few months ago the County pulled units out of the City station 91? Why? Was it an attempt to save money? The City gladly worked to help keep units where they were needed.

Now if someone has a heart attack, fire, car wreck, diabetic emergency and you are in that area of the county you have to wait on a unit from the county(south of the court house). Why is the county saving money? No the city ran more into the county than vice versa. So why are these politicians playing with my friends and families chances of survival? I have to say, it boils down to $$$$$.......I was born and raised here and what this bunch of commissioners is doing is ripping apart friends and coworkers from the city and county. I just hope someone gets involved before we have a senseless death and it makes me wonder was a movie studio so great for us after all?

I didn't even mention ISO which discarded agreements will hurt both city and county homeowners insurance.

Firefighter_24
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Just a couple of things

The county is not taking away EMS. The county medic trucks will continue to run ems calls into the city of Fayetteville. In regards to the county moving an ambulance......it moved about 50 yards back to its original location. There will be the same response time as before.
Do I agree with what the politicians are doing....no. However, at citizens of Fayetteville and certain Fayetteville firefighters made it perfectly clear that they did not want/need Fayette County. Now that automatic aide is being terminated, everyone wants/needs the county. Why the change of heart?
I agree that the County Manager, county commissioners, city manager, city council members, and both Fire Chiefs' need to all sit down together and work this out.I agree that all of the political backlash is going to get someone killed. With that being said, the county is being made the bad guy in all of this, while the city plays the victim. Nobody has stood up from the city to talk about all of the lies told about county during that meeting. Nobobody from the city has discussed that before the consolidation meeting, city firefighters were going around saying that they were looking to outsource EMS, that way they did not need FCFD at all. Both parties are guilty, and it needs to stop.
But please do not worry about your EMS service, because you will receive the best.

Night Train
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Let the smoke clear

FF 24, you are correct the county will continue to send a EMS unit to all calls in the city however, Pine Trail is in the county and station 92 is 1000 yards away. With automatic aid being removed then the county expects 92 to sit in the station while a significant medical or fire even happens in the Pine Trail area. That is the problem with the automatic aid going away. I hear you when you say some of the FF/Citizens in the city implied that they did not need the county. I think you have to look at the pressure that was placed on the entire staff of the city Fire Service. If consolidation was going to have a negative impact on you then I am sure you would be upset and may say something that would be in a negative light even though that is not your true feelings.

Firefighter_24
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night train

I may be there, but the city budget does not affect me. Before automatic aide was terminated, I can remember a number of calls in which a county unit was closer, but the city refused to start the county and instead started one of their own. The city is not innocent in all of this! That is the point I am trying to make. The county is getting a big black eye right now and no one seems to want to stand up and defend. The city is coming across as angels and victims. I do not agree with the way the politicians from both sides are acting. But I do believe that a point is being made.....do I agree with the way the point is being made? Not at all. As for the consolidation, I believe you and I have had that discussion so I am not going to dive into that again. We will both have to agree to disagree on some topics.
Ultimately I want to see all of this resolved so everyone can get back to work safely.

Night Train
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FF 24

If you sit back and look at everything that has happened since all of this began, the only ones that have been hurt are those fire fighters on line and the relationships between the administrative staff members. That is that bad part of all of this. You know and I know that calls are picked up at the discretion of who ever is on the truck and that goes for both departments. Everyone sits on here and points fingers at each other and that is exactly what does not need to happen. I have stated in the past that Fayette County has the BEST EMS personnel around. Both departments provide the best fire service possible and most of the time it is done as a team (city and county). This is has caused heart burn for everyone and what needs to happen is we all need to take a step back and look at the whole picture. We all make a difference in the lives of those we come in contact with and we do it for the love of the job not the glory or money. I understand feeling were hurt and I can't change that but I can say no matter who you are when all the smoke clears and you reach out for a hand I will be the first to extend mine. I feel every fire fighter for the City and County would do the same.

Husband and Fat...
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Mr. Stanley

In my humble opinion, I think this is going to be resolved once the political games are played out. But, I think it will take good folks like you to put some pressure on the city and county officials.

Hopefully in the future, the studio will result in the financial gain for the county. But I humbly believe, and have been stating, that in a rush to approve it, the ramifications were not well thought out.

All the commissioners ran on a platform to balance the budget. And yes, they have accomplished this (on paper). I feel that they all are simply following the lead of the county county manager they hired.

This is a life safety issue. I remember that Commissioner Oddo ran on a platform that he would evaluate each vote based on a checklist. His first listing was "Is this a good idea". Obviously this response should have been NO. I don't recall him voting in opposition of this. My first question would be Why not? How about also contacting Mr. McCarty. I would have thought that he would have been against this issue too.

My bet is that both will respond that this had to be done to balance the budget.

Hometown Guy
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H&F

How can re-opening an older fire station and stopping receiving free help when needed be cheaper? Yes, this is a give and a take situation for both city and the county, but it looks like FC is acting like the local bully. I can only see more dollar signs that our county is wasting and not using this to balance the budget. Rapson has cut the budget by running off experienced personnel and hiring lower paid inexperienced personnel. Many county employees that I have spoken with do not like him or his strong arm tactics.

AtHomeGym
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H & F & reloaded quiver

But you are using the same old arrows as before--they weren't successful then and they won't be now! Maybe you should stick to "vision" meetings and traffic studies!

Husband and Fat...
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AHG

Have I seen you at any meetings?

AtHomeGym
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H&F & meetings

Just how would you recognize me?

Firefighter_24
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Just a couple of things

The county is not taking away EMS. The county medic trucks will continue to run ems calls into the city of Fayetteville. In regards to the county moving an ambulance......it moved about 50 yards back to its original location. There will be the same response time as before.
Do I agree with what the politicians are doing....no. However, at citizens of Fayetteville and certain Fayetteville firefighters made it perfectly clear that they did not want/need Fayette County. Now that automatic aide is being terminated, everyone wants/needs the county. Why the change of heart?
I agree that the County Manager, county commissioners, city manager, city council members, and both Fire Chiefs' need to all sit down together and work this out.I agree that all of the political backlash is going to get someone killed. With that being said, the county is being made the bad guy in all of this, while the city plays the victim. Nobody has stood up from the city to talk about all of the lies told about county during that meeting. Nobobody from the city has discussed that before the consolidation meeting, city firefighters were going around saying that they were looking to outsource EMS, that way they did not need FCFD at all. Both parties are guilty, and it needs to stop.
But please do not worry about your EMS service, because you will receive the best.

Davids mom
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Thank you

Firefighter 24!

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