Members of a committee formed to secure and adopt a plan to provide quality fire and emergency medical services to residents living on the east end of Liberty County are reaching out to county officials. The committee’s purpose is to resolve what many east-end residents claim is a lack of adequate fire services provided by the county following the Dec. 31, 2018 closure of Eastern District Fire Rescue.
The committee posted an update on social media, outlining its efforts to meet with county commissioners to work on a fire protection plan for east Liberty residents. The group also plans to contact representatives of the Liberty County Hospital Authority – which oversees Liberty Regional Medical Center - to discuss the adoption of an emergency medical (ambulance) services plan for the Colonel’s Island and Sunbury area. According to the post, committee members have asked to meet with Liberty County Development Authority Chairman Allen Brown to, “request their support to secure a site at Tradeport East for a new Eastern District Fire Station.”
The committee also intends to discuss in future the adoption of a Marine Rescue Plan.
On Thursday, Liberty County Administrator Joey Brown confirmed in an email that the county signed a one-year lease with EDFR on Jan. 23.
“The county is fully operational at both the Sunbury and Colonel’s Island stations,” Brown said. “Our current 10-hour crew floats between these two stations and Lake George daily. That crew, along with volunteers from those areas, continue to do a great job.”
The lease includes the use of remaining fire equipment, two Colonel’s Island Substations and Sunbury Station properties. The county will pay $1,000 in rent and each party can end the agreement at any time with a 90-day written notice.
“We are working with an architect on our design of two new stations, one at Miller Park and the other at a location on Islands Highway,” he continued. “We anticipate being able to have a drawing to show to the Board of Commissioners by the end of February. Upon construction of the new station on Islands Highway the lease for the current Sunbury Station would terminate. The county would continue to have a substation at Colonels Island.”
Brown previously told the Courier that locating a new station on Islands Highway would provide better response time to east end residences. A station at Trade Port East – as recommended by the committee – would not be a priority for the county, he said. Brown explained the industrial park is in close proximity to a water tower and tenant industries are equipped with fire sprinkler systems.
Brown said budget planning for fiscal year 2020 will begin in March. At that time, the county will explore the possibility of staffing additional 10-hour fire service crews “in various locations.”
The county has in recent months presented its proposed fire protection plan to several municipalities. The plan calls for 31 paid county firefighters to operate from realigned stations throughout the county. Liberty County plans to use a combination of revenue sources to pay for fire and rescue operations, most notably an annual fee to be charged on each property taxpayer’s tax notice. The fire and rescue fee for most Liberty County homeowners would be $150 annually according to the current draft plan.
Joe Parker Jr. and Patty Leon contributed to this story.