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East end fire trucks questioned

Officials say purchase is start of countywide plan

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POSTED: April 15, 2009 9:33 a.m.
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Eddie Walden

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East Liberty County will soon have new firefighting equipment its neighbors on the west side lack, and the seeming division of wealth had Liberty County commissioners questioning why.
The board approved the purchase of $1.2 million worth of fire vehicles during its monthly meeting April 7, though Commissioners Connie Thrift and Eddie Walden voted against it.
Grady Parrish, fire authority chairman, and James Ashdown, Liberty County fire coordinator, said three tankers will be stationed at Midway, Fleming and Riceboro and two service trucks will go to Midway and Lake George.
Thrift asked why all the new trucks were being stationed within a 20-mile radius, reminding Parrish and Ashdown the vehicles are being bought with SPLOST funds from all the taxpayers in the county.
Thrift wanted services for fire protection to be spread throughout the county.
“The [east end] call volume for fire service is astronomical compared to the west end,” Ashdown said.
There are plans to put more trucks on the west end, when west-end departments can house them.
“I’m not looking at beefing up the east end versus the west end,” Ashdown said. “We get in and buy these tankers because we need them.”
Commissioner Marion Stevens, who represents District 1 on the east end, seemed to think it was a good idea, especially since the west end department reportedly do not have garage space.
An emergency volunteer himself, Stevens pointed out damage ambulances have sustained from sitting out in the weather because of lack of a garage.
While the fire authority had a quorum when they voted on the item, Walden was disappointed his representative was not there.
Ashdown explained tankers help improve response times when there is not a water source in the area.
“We’re eventually going to get to this countywide,” Ashdown said. “We can’t afford to do them all at one time, but we’ve got to start somewhere.”
If there are plans for expansion, Walden thought they should wait.
“I’m not prepared to vote on something like this,” Walden said. “This is nothing that can’t wait until the mid-month meeting.”
“This price is going to be gone if we don’t move on it,” Ashdown said. “We’re going to lose it, that’s why we pushed to get in there as fast we could.”
Commissioners also discussed fire authority attendance, urging more participation so high-risk issues get a balanced consideration.
“As the chair, you’re overall,” Thrift said to Parrish. “Not just your district, but you’ve got to look out for the county as a whole.”
“I see we have some problems and I would say the fire authority has always been a contentious issue,” commission Chairman John McIver said. “Sometimes you don’t have all your members there, [but] I would encourage you to get as many as possible to bring the issue before us.”
 

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