Catoosa fire merger clock ticking

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GlacierClipper

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Found on the Chattanooga Times Free Press Website

http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2008/mar/24/catoosa-fire-merger-clock-ticking/?local

Monday, March 24, 2008



Catoosa fire merger clock ticking


By: Ronnie Moore
(Contact)
RINGGOLD, Ga. — Catoosa County has not given up on reaching agreements with Post Volunteer Fire Department to work with county firefighters or with Ringgold on a possible funding arrangement, officials said.

“We want to see the volunteers with Catoosa Fire and Rescue and those with Post Volunteer become true volunteers and work with our expanded force of full-time firefighters,” Catoosa Commissioner DeWayne Hill said.

Commissioners a year ago proposed a merger or consolidation of the Catoosa Fire and Rescue, Post Volunteer and Fort Oglethorpe Fire and Rescue department, but no working agreements have emerged.

“We’ve talked and negotiated with Post Volunteer, but I’m unsure if we have progressed any in the past year,” Commission Chairman Bill Clark said. “We publicly provided Fort Oglethorpe, Post Volunteer with notice that county funding to both will cease in May.”

Fort Oglethorpe Mayor Ronnie Cobb said whatever the outcome of talks between Post and Catoosa County, his city will not be left without fire protection.

“If the county cuts a deal with Post we would have the same Insurance Service Organization (IS0) 3 rating for a year,” he said. “With or without volunteers we will make provision for adequate fire protection coverage. We will survive.”

Post Volunteer firefighters staff stations outside Fort Oglethorpe, on Mack Smith Road and Old Mill Road and provide night staffing at Fort Oglethorpe Station No. 1.

The two departments have had a lengthy relationship and the same fire chief, but the county has provided funding to Post for coverage in county areas outside Fort Oglethorpe.

Mr. Clark said commissioners have instructed County Manager Mike Helton to respond to a Fort Oglethorpe coverage proposal received by the county six weeks ago.

“I don’t know if our response to their proposal has been received there yet, but we basically expressed appreciation for the city’s interest and said we are not interested in that proposal,” he said.

Mr. Hill has served as the commission representative in talks and meetings with Post Volunteer and Fort Oglethorpe.

He said an agreement with volunteers will permit the 30 full-time county firefighters to staff the entire county during the day and volunteers would be on call at night.

“We’re determined to go ahead and work toward a countywide fire protection service,” Mr. Hill said. “The county wants the volunteers from Catoosa Fire and Post Volunteer to be true volunteers with the county covering their fuel and equipment expenses. We could develop a small remuneration package to show our appreciation.”

He said the county plans to use funds to upgrade the Keith station and build new stations at Woodstation and in the Westside/Lakeview area.

Commissioner Bobby Winters, Mr. Hill and Mr. Clark each said the county wants to learn from the Insurance Service Organization precisely what standards will be required for the county to improve its ISO 5 rating.

They said once the new county system is up and running they will look toward a new ISO inspection and possibly a better ISO rating.

“Personnel comprise a portion of the overall score and ISO rating,” Mr. Clark said. “We have added about 25 full-time firefighters, millions of dollars in new equipment and Catoosa Utility has upgraded water lines and added hydrants.”

Commissioner Ken Marks said some concrete movement in the process may develop within a few weeks.

The possibility of fire districts for taxing and having a fire chief for the new county department were mentioned in early phases of discussions last year, but have not been raised in recent months.

Catoosa’s notification that existing firefighting agreements will be terminated in May, also included Ringgold, but two county commissioners said they are hopeful an agreement will soon be reached with that city.

Ringgold does not have any fire department protection other than the county’s Fire and Rescue Department.
 

ButchGone

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Stumbling blocks

Catoosa County has embarked on an ambitious and well thought out plan to provide fire service in one of the state's fastest growing counties, to replace the old volunteer-only system. Commissioners want to lower the ISO rating in order to attract more industry and business. But here's the rub, and it's common just about everywhere: volunteer firefighters are too often caught up in silly, childish turf wars. The territorial pissings (Curt Cobaine said that once) are caught up in the "my district" or "my board of directors" battles and get in the way of what's good for the public. Everybody feels like they have to be in charge, and so on. It's the same battle in Hamilton County - all volunteer agencies who squabble over silly turf and who's members can't be sent to calls because they're busy or don't feel like getting up and on the road. Just check how many times Emergency Services tones out a call three, four or more times during the day with no answer. Highway 58 Volunteer Fire Department won't even roll on a fire alarm call at a residence because the chief named "Dude" will cancel the response and tell the dispatcher to have the sheriff's office check the address and IF it's on fire THEN call back. Fire protection? The public there, and in growing Catoosa deserves a professional, full-time and trained fire department under one white hat with everybody working for the same goal. Geez, at least Catoosa County is spending the money on new stations, personnel and fire engines. Why does Catoosa County need "Post Fire Department?" All they are is a board of directors who want to maintain control over turf. I hope everyone will agree on protecting the public and not some boundary lines penciled in on an old road map. If not, folks are hosed!
BG..
 
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