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County rethinking fire service funding
Justin Frasier
Commissioner Justin Frasier - photo by File photo

The Liberty County Commission Thursday decided on another tactic for planning and implementing countywide fire and emergency services. All mayors will be invited to meet with county officials to review ways of paying for the service.

The county plans to list a fee for fire and emergency services on property tax notices and then on the following tax bills, allowing revenue to come in and services to begin in January 2019. The amount of the fee and the method of determining it are not yet decided.

Commissioner Justin Frasier said he thought the county "should be sure we have exhausted all opportunities to work with the cities," before adopting the countywide measures. The commissioners decided to make one more try, by conferring with all the mayors; the meeting to be held within 30 days.

The commissioners have already held two rounds of town hall meetings on the emergency protection plan. Initial planning was for a flat fee to go on tax bills to pay for the service. According to one example cited earlier, a home with a $250,000 fair market value would pay $320 a year for fire and rescue service.

Since then, commissioners have questioned what fee, if any, should be charged on vacant land, and other methods of assessment on vacant and improved land have been discussed. The county plan said 88 churches and charities exist and considers charging them an annual fee of $300.

Commissioner Marion Stevens told his fellow commissioners that the recreation board had recently turned down a proposal from a Savannah swim team that wanted to provide heating for the county’s pool at its East Liberty complex and use it during the winter. Stevens said this was a major decision that should have been made by the commission, not by the recreation board. Officials seemed to agree and decided to discuss the matter with the recreation board.

In a kind of presentation too familiar to both residents and officials William Hemmingway and a group of neighbors complained about the state of the roads in the Trails Subdivision. Cracked pavement and developing potholes were shown in a slide presentation and Hemmingway said he had "been given the runaround 18 different times" in his efforts to find help with the road.

County Administrator Joey Brown said the roads in the subdivision had never been deeded to the county and that prevented direct action to repair the roads. The subdivision has had several different owners.

County Engineer Trent Long said the roads had originally been built to conform to the standards that were in effect at the time. He said heavy trucks had used the road during a tree-cutting operation years ago and had damaged the pavement.

The asphalt pavement showed "alligator cracking" which means failure of the base under the pavement. With removal of unsuitable material from underneath and repaving, Commission Chairman Donald Lovette said the price tag for fixing the road would be around $500,000.

Officials said they would look at documents concerning the roads and also consider what funds might be available. A construction moratorium in areas with similar infrastructure problems is an option.

The commission’s next meeting will be Tuesday at 6 p.m.

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