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Loan from Splash to help fund county fire department
Couch.Thomas cam
Tom Couch - photo by FILE
    Bulloch County leaders will be using water to fight fire.
    An interfund loan from Splash in the 'Boro proceeds will provide operating money for the new Bulloch County Fire Department until county leaders establish - and collect - fire service fees, said Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch during a Bulloch County Commission meeting Tuesday.
    Commissioners voted to adopt a resolution giving Couch spending authority and submit a fire department budget for the remainder of 2008 and for 2009.
    The interfund loan is like a line of credit, and the county will " draw it when we need it," Couch said. The amount borrowed from the Splash in the 'Boro funds will be paid back when county property owners start sending in their fees for fire services.
    Those fees have not yet been set, and Bulloch County Tax Commissioner James Deal and Bulloch County Tax Assessor John Scott are working together to help determine how much the fees will be and when citizens will be billed, he said.
    For the remainder of fiscal year 2008, only $180,000 will be borrowed, Couch said. And for 2009, the line of credit " is not to exceed $350,000."
    The commissioners voted to continue an agreement with the City of Statesboro through 2009 that provides fire service to citizens within a five-mile radius of the city's limits. But commissioners also voted to form a county fire department to serve others in the county, and lower Insurance Services Office (ISO) ratings for citizens who do not live inside the city limits of the county's four municipalities.
    The new county fire department, led by Chief Randy Walker, will provide better services to rural citizens through improvement of volunteer fire departments as well as  the eventual addition of fire substations throughout the county. These improvements will lower ISO ratings across the county,  and thus will reduce insurance rates for citizens, Couch said.
    Walker said during the meeting he hopes to have an idea of what the county's ISO rating will be by August.
    Couch said borrowing the money through the interfund loan from Splash in the 'Boro will be less expensive than other options.
    The county's decision earlier this year to form a county-wide fire department stemmed from a disagreement with the City of Statesboro over the percentage of the Statesboro Fire Department budget the county pays in exchange for the services provided to citizens living within the five-mile radius.
    "This does not affect the City of Statesboro or the five-mile district," said Bulloch County Commissioner Roy Thompson. "But it does affect citizens outside the district. It will increase fire coverage and lower our ISO rating."
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