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City, county reach fire district deal

Extend current agreement with a few changes

City, county reach fire district deal

City, county reach fire district deal

Bulloch County and the city of Statesboro have signed off on a five-year agreement in which the city will continue to provide fire service to a five-mile fire district surrounding the city.

County Commissioners unanimously approved the deal Tuesday evening, and City Council followed with its own unanimous vote Wednesday morning. The deal is effective immediately and runs through June 30, 2018.

Residents within the district are located within five miles of existing Statesboro city fire stations.

The agreement echoes similar pacts in the past. In recent years, the agreements between the city and county have been two-year agreements, while both city and county officials negotiated terms.

The city had expressed a desire to enter into a longer-term agreement, suggesting a 25-year term. Bulloch County commissioners were reluctant to enter an agreement of that length.

Negotiations between the two sides prompted the city and county to extend the current, two-year agreement, which was set to expire June 30, by 90 days. That proved to give them the additional time they needed to work out a new agreement.
Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch outlined the five-year agreement Tuesday night during the Bulloch County Commission meeting. The agreement addresses use of $240,000 the county accrued during the past two years; in past agreements, the equivalent of 1.8 mills annually has been paid to the city of Statesboro in compensation for services provided to taxpayers living within the five-mile fire district.

The $240,000 represents the money the county collected by withholding a percentage of the 1.8-mill funding given to the city, a condition to which the city had agreed. The new agreement restores the full 1.8-mill funding to the city.
Couch said the funds will be used for a long-hose lay (equipment that would extend water supplies) and decrease Insurance Services Office ratings, as well as a water availability study and a fire training facility that would be used by both county and city fire departments. Lower ISO ratings result in lower insurance costs for homeowners.

The agreement includes a clause in which Statesboro officials requested that no more than $40,000 be used to fund the facility, Couch said.

The agreement also includes a “provision regarding dispute resolution,” he said.

Bulloch County staff attorney Jeff Akins said wording in the agreement also provides “contemplation of a longer term” in the future by county commissioners, where the “county may, but will not be obligated, to agree to a longer term” later.

The agreement “addresses a need for alternative water resources in the fire district,” Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn said. “I’m comfortable with the $200,000 that is left” after construction of a training facility.
Aside from the long-hose lay, which would extend availability of water sources by 5,000 to 8,000 feet and therefore lower ISO ratings, the water availability study will locate more water sources within the county, which will increase fire safety services and further lower ISO ratings, he said.

“The ISO will ask for this study when they determine ratings,” he said. “We will be looking for dependable water sources.”

An advisory  committee, composed of Bulloch County Commission Chairman Garrett Nevil, Statesboro City Manager Frank Parker, Wynn, Bulloch County Fire Chief Christopher Ivey, Statesboro Public Safety Director Wendell Turner, Statesboro Fire Chief Tim Grams, and an appointed Statesboro city councilman and Bulloch County commissioner, will oversee the fire district, according to the agreement.

Bulloch County Commissioner Roy Thompson made a motion to approve the proposed agreement, with Commissioner Carolyn Ethridge supporting it by a second. The motion was unanimously approved.

City Council had little discussion about the agreement on Wednesday. Parker commented before the vote.

"It is a pleasure for me to make a recommendation (to approve the agreement), to council,” the city manager said. “I want to thank Mayor Joe Brannen, City Council, Bulloch County Commissioners and the Bulloch County manager for what have been pleasant negotiations."

Staff Writer Jeff Harrison contributed to this report.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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