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County offers city 5-year fire agreement

Commissioners want to see the city's long-term plan before making long-term commitment

    Bulloch County commissioners voted Tuesday morning to offer the City of Statesboro a five-year agreement regarding fire services provided by the Statesboro Fire Department to residents living within a five-mile radius of the Statesboro city limits.
    City officials sought a longer term agreement — 25 years — but county commissioners have expressed hesitation about entering an agreement that long without more information on the city’s plans to expand its fire services.
    The Statesboro Fire Department provides fire service to residents of the five-mile district in exchange for monetary compensation by the  county. This benefits residents of the district through lower insurance ratings and having fire protection by full-time staff.
    During the July 2 Bulloch County Commission meeting, commissioners discussed making the city an offer after Commissioner Roy Thompson said Statesboro City Councilman Travis Chance suggested the county make its counteroffer if commissioners disagreed regarding the city’s 25-year agreement.
    The vote was unanimous Tuesday to offer the city a five-year agreement, reinstating a $10,000-a-month reduction in money paid to the city that had been voted on previously.
    Thompson explained Tuesday that since he has been in office, about eight years, Bulloch County has renewed its agreement with the City of Statesboro every two years.
    Before the reduction in money paid, the county paid the city about $850,000 annually for fire protection services within the five-mile district. Past agreements reduced that amount by $10,000 a month so the county’s fire department could purchase equipment, he said.
    The five-year agreement proposal voted upon Tuesday would reinstate the additional $10,000 monthly.
    “We’re in the wait and see period,” Thompson said Tuesday. “Fire protection for the city is what we all want. We’ve had two-year agreements for the past eight years, and Statesboro city councilmen) want (a 25-year agreement). Basically, we’d like to know what their plans are (before entering a long-term agreement).”
    Commissioners “think a five-year agreement is sufficient,” Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch said. “The city wants to expand the fire district, (but) before we enter a 25-year agreement, we want to know where they will put a new fire station and all the other details.”
    Bulloch County commissioners aren’t saying they will never enter a longer-term agreement, but, “we just want to see the plan,” Couch said. “It’s a good idea to have a good long-term plan in place before you ink up a long-term plan agreement.”
    The proposed agreement was sent to city officials Tuesday after the commissioners’ meeting.
    “We’re just trying to get the ball rolling,” Commissioner Robert Rushing said. “We’re offering a five-year contract and continue doing what we’ve been doing. The ball is in their court now.”
   
    Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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