The Liberty County Board of Commissioners agreed Tuesday to develop a fire plan that could improve the county’s Insurance Service Office ratings. The commission approved the one-time fee for a $6,500 contract with the National Fire Services Office in Sylvania to design strategies to enhance the county’s fire service and possibly lower residents’ fire-insurance rates.
Liberty County Administrator Joey Brown told commissioners the rate-reduction plan would be completed in less than two months, once the project started.
In addition, if area fire departments not owned by the county want an inspection of their current ISO status, NFSO would complete a similar fire-services review for a fee of $3,500 per fire district, according to the rate-reduction plan proposal.
NFSO consultants would conduct an area survey and meet with the county manager and fire coordinator, inspect the fire department’s equipment and training records, design a map to be used for an ISO inspection, identify alternate water sources, inspect the 911-response plan, according to the proposal.
“(The plan) will provide a list of recommendations that can be used as a guide for system improvements that will hopefully lead to lower insurance rates,” Brown said. “The final decision on whether or not to honor the improvements rests with the individual insurance companies.”
A municipal or county government’s ISO fire rating is a measurement of the quality of that community’s fire-suppression services. ISO ratings are on a scale from 1-10, with 1 being the most superior rating. Factors such as the number and condition of hydrants and the proximity of structures to those hydrants, a fire department’s equipment and personnel, hours of training logged by firefighters, as well as where fire stations are located within a city or county contribute to a government’s ISO rating, according to iso.com.
Commissioners discussed the ISO ratings for those unincorporated areas of the county that would most benefit from the plan, including Gum Branch, Lake George/Fleming and the Eastern District. Lake George/ Fleming and the Eastern District of the county currently have an ISO rating of 4/9, Liberty County fire coordinator James Ashdown confirmed in an email. The city of Gum Branch is served by county fire station No. 15 via contract, Brown said.
Liberty County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette told the Courier in July that residents in the unincorporated county deserve the same fire protection and cost savings on their insurance premiums that residents in the incorporated areas of the county receive. Lovette had said the current county budget would not support the cost for fire-service improvements, and therefore, county leaders might have to consider implementing a fire fee or millage increase.
In other county business:
• Liberty County Finance Director Kim McGlothlin updated commissioners on the county’s finances.
“All in all, we’re doing pretty well the first two months in (to the new fiscal year),” she said.
Ideally, only 16-17 percent of funds should be expended, and the county is “holding the line” at 14 percent, according to McGlothlin. The county has more than three months in fund reserves, and most departments are staying under budget. McGlothlin said the new East End Center would be categorized as a separate department but will come under the recreation department budget due to the majority of its activities.
• Commissioners voted to reject bids it received for the courthouse annex parking-improvement project, and rebid the project in order to divide the work into two phases. Liberty County engineer Trent Long said upon recent review of the project, additional project requirements were identified. Long said the companies that bid on the project would be given plans and specs and would, in effect, be considered “automatic” bidders once the project is re-advertised for bids. The project likely would not get under way until late December, Long said.
• Commissioners approved a utility easement to allow Midway resident Mary Scott to expand her pre-K center by upgrading a modular building on property off East Oglethorpe Highway.
• The commission approved several planning and zoning recommendations made by the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission. Commissioners granted Charlene Harris a conditional use to operate a youth-development and community safe-haven nonprofit organization on Limerick Road in Liberty County. Betty Pipkin of Liberty County was granted her request to rezone .98 acres from R-2 (higher-density single-family dwelling district) to R2A to allow single-wide mobile homes on her property off Hollywood Drive. The commission also approved Wanda and Jefferson Crutchfield’s request to build a free-standing garage within the 10-foot required side-yard setback on their East First Street property.
• Commissioners voted to enter into a memorandum of agreement with the Coastal Regional Commission to develop and implement a regional-mitigation plan. Mitigation plans form the foundation for a community’s long-term strategy to reduce losses following a storm or other natural disaster.