Statesboro City Council voted unanimously Tuesday evening to extend the deadline of an intergovernmental agreement regarding fire services, allowing more time for city and county officials to work out details of a new deal.
Council passed the motion during a scheduled meeting at City Hall.
Bulloch County Commissioners approved the same extension, adding 90 days to the contract, during a meeting held earlier in the day.
The agreement — a two-year deal that is set to expire June 30 — sets terms for fire services the city provides to areas within a five-mile radius outside the city limits.
Currently, the Statesboro Fire Department provides fire protection to the area — known as the "five-mile fire district" — in exchange for tax money collected by the county.
Bulloch County charges 1.8 mills in taxes for property owners in the area for the service.
Officials are entertaining the idea of slightly modifying the current agreement, and will use the additional 90 days to decide on a plan, Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn said.
"The city has some growth plans for their fire department and has approached the county manager about their plans for the five-mile district, but plans aren't fully together yet," Wynn said. "The 90-day extension will allow them to get that plan together and make a presentation to the Board of Commissioners, the county manager and, ultimately, the citizens that pay the tax."
According to area leaders, the City of Statesboro is seeking a longer-term deal for the agreement.
As long as a 25-year extension has been mentioned in at least one discussion, Wynn said.
"There was some hesitancy from the Board of Commissioners for a 25-year agreement. I think they felt like that was extremely long to be dependent on someone for fire protection," he said.
Said City Manager Frank Parker: "To help facilitate the best service that we can, the city feels we need to have a longer-term agreement."
City administrators may also look to expand the five-mile district.
"They would (grow the district) by adding a new fire station. Any place within five miles of the station could be added to the area," Wynn said.
According to Parker, a plan is in place to add one or more fire stations in the near future, and work is underway to determine the best location.
Wynn, Statesboro Public Safety Director Wendell Turner, and the respective fire departments will work together to decide the best location for a station that would best serve the district, Wynn said.
Ultimately, the city's plans for the five-mile fire district, and changes to the intergovernmental agreement, will be presented to Bulloch County Commissioners and Statesboro City Council for approval.
Any changes "depend on the plan and how citizens respond to it," Wynn said.
Regardless, Parker said, "we will continue working in tandem with each other to provide the best fire service that we can provide (for the district)."
In other business Tuesday, City Council annexed into the city several pieces of property along Cawana Road, approved the first reading of an ordinance to increase the hotel/motel tax from 5 percent to 6 percent (the state Legislature approved the change during its session earlier this year), and approved a $238,000 contract for the construction of a Natural Gas and Water Department equipment shelter on Hill Street.
Council will meet next on Tuesday, July 2.
Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.