Fayette presses F’ville for fire dept. consolidation

A Fayetteville Fire Department unit assists the county during a fire last week on Lees Mill Road. Photo/John Munford.

Uniting county, F’ville city fire units a ‘wash’ on taxes, county mgr. says

A proposal to consolidate the Fayetteville and Fayette County fire departments is being floated again by county officials.

The County Commission and City Council will have a joint meeting to go over details today (Wednesday) at the county government complex in downtown Fayetteville starting at 6 p.m.

The county is touting the consolidation plan as a win for Fayetteville residents because of improved EMT services, a streamlining of all operations and an earlier opening and full staffing of a proposed new fire station off Veterans Parkway.

Fayetteville currently relies on the county for ambulance and most emergency medical services, since its firefighters don’t have advanced paramedic training.

But the county stands to benefit because it would eliminate the funding problem created when the city annexes land from the unincorporated county.

When such an annexation occurs, the county is no longer able to charge the fire tax to the property because the city provides fire services. Further complicating the fact is that the tax digest for the county fire services is almost exclusively residential in nature, with few commercial and industrial properties to contribute. The recent economic recession’s hit on the housing market thus sent the county fire service’s tax revenue downward.

From the taxpayer’s perspective, County Manager Steve Rapson said the consolidation would be “a wash” — little if any change — because the county would simply begin charging city residents the same 3.07 millage rate currently assessed only to residents in the unincorporated county.

“To the taxpayers it’s a net zero,” Rapson said, promising that no property tax increase for the fire fund is being considered.

Rapson also said the Fayetteville Council could roll back its millage rate to account for the money it won’t have to spend on fire services, while banking a one-time savings of about $400,000 that could be spent on other city priorities.

The county also plans to keep staffing the existing two fire stations in Fayetteville: the one near City Hall in downtown and the one at the Fayette Pavilion shopping center.

The council has the final say on the consolidation effort, and just two years ago it turned down the county’s previous such proposal. An intervening election has changed the council’s composition with two new members.

The council is slated to make its final decision on April 17.

If consolidation is approved by Fayetteville, the county wants to have it fully operational by July 1 of this year.

In an effort to make for a smooth transition, the county will host an informational meeting for both city and county fire staff this (Wednesday) morning at 9 a.m., and they are also welcome to attend the 6 p.m. joint meeting of the council and commission.

The improvement of EMT services for city residents is a significant factor, Rapson said, noting that the city fire department currently provides basic life support (BLS) service compared to the ALS service offered by the county fire department.

The difference is that ALS crews are allowed to administer injections, IV fluids and intubation, and they have equipment for airway assistance, cardiac life support, and cardiac monitors that transmit information about patients’ heart rhythm directly to the hospital, county officials said. By contrast, BLS crews are equipped with “epi” pens and oral glucose.

One major difference is that since all county firefighters are EMTs or paramedics, the county’s fire engines provide ALS support for patients since they often arrive on the scene before an ambulance can arrive.

The county’s consolidation proposal would allow all Fayetteville full-time firefighters to be absorbed into the county fire department, and each would receive at least a small bump in salary, according to Rapson.

While this makes room for each city firefighter and each member of the city’s command staff, they will have a two or three-year time frame to get their advance life support (ALS) training as an emergency medical technician. And the command staff would need to get an associate’s degree if they do not already possess one, along with taking a paramedic course that the county would pay for, Rapson said in a presentation to the county commission Friday afternoon.

The city fire captains could also choose not to seek the associates degree but remain as a paramedic, but they would be choosing to move to a lower position, Rapson said.

City firemen would also benefit from more opportunities for promotion in the county fire department, Rapson noted.

The proposal calls for the county to absorb the city’s fire-related impact fees of about $1 million, which would be used to build the new Veterans Parkway station that would serve not just the nearby Pinewood Atlanta Studios, but also nearby Piedmont Fayette Hospital and assisted living facilities while being poised to handle future economic development growth in the area, Rapson said.

The city would also be compensated for the fire stations and bunker gear equipment, Rapson added.

The county in turn would gain the efficiency of not having to send units through Fayetteville to respond to service calls on the other side of town, Rapson noted.

“We think that’s the biggest bang for our buck as opposed to having to work around another jurisdiction,” Rapson said.

HALO
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Reason for Consolidation

The reason behind the consolidation is the following.
When the city annexes land the taxes for that land (fire tax for sure) gets taken away from the county and the city now gets it. This in turn causes a decrease in the tax dollars received by the county and increases the tax dollar for the city. This is why Chairman Brown said as annexation takes place the county has to pull back the services in that annexed area. So again this is all about the tax dollar and not necessarily about the service being improved or remaining the same. What I don't understand is why the city would be willing to give up those tax dollars and not use it to build a better department than they already have. When you own a house and it's time for maintenance you don't sell the house or give it away, you invest and fix the house so to make it better than it was so I have to ask why would the city want to give its fire department away instead of investing in it? Both the city and county departments count on each other and have worked together for more than a decade without any issues. Both departments deliver great service to the citizens in the city and county so trashing either organization is not necessary. I feel both organizations should remain separate and should continue to deliver the services as they have in the past. I am not for Consolidation, I feel the taxes will go up in Fayetteville due to an increase in the fire tax after the first year is up. The fire tax has gone up from 1.99 to 3.07 in the past 4 years and it has risen almost yearly.

As one of the others stated giving away dollars to save pennies!

MajorMike
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bureaucracy

An increase in the size of a bureaucracy inevitably leads to a decrease in it's efficiency. Fayetteville has outstanding fire and emergency services, don't make the mistake of losing dollars because you're watching pennies. The tax revenue may or may not equal a zero increase but personnel and probably equipment and stations will be merged with losses to all three. So exactly where would the revenue go that supported those items if the whole shebang is "net zero" to the taxpayer.

The nature of bureaucracy never changes - it grows.

Case in point - look at the history of our water system.

If it ain't broke, don't be trying to fix it.

moelarrycurly
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Pinewood & Fayette County Agreement

Anyone know what the Protective Inspection Intergovernmental Agreement is all about?

Anyone know the details of the FC Sheriff vehicle and officer who are on duty at the entrance(s) to Pinewood just about every time I drive by there? Is this part of the above agreement and who is paying for the FCSO service there?

HALO
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Fire Department Consolidation

Come to the meeting at 5pm on April 23 to stand behind the City of Fayetteville Fire Department. They have been there for you in your time of need, let's do the same for them.

moelarrycurly
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HALO

I get your message. I am a PTC resident. Thank you.

Speaking from the outside, and now with the news of GMC wanting to open up in Fayetteville in that area, maybe some cooperation and nudging will allow the funding issue of the new fire station on Veterans Pkwy. to be shared by all interested parties, thus reducing cost and the need for this consolidation at the present time.

Inthecold
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Fire Department Consolidation

The county fire department is stretched so thin as it is with all of the medical transfers from Piedmont Fayette Hospital. It is not uncommon to have several ambulances out of the county on transports, which cuts their manpower greatly. The city of Fayetteville needs to start providing EMS to their residents, and maintain their own department. Fayetteville Fire Department responds with Fayette County on many of their calls already, because Fayette County don't have enough manpower to handle the situation. Fayette County needs to quit screwing with their employees, and try to retain the medics and EMT's they have and provide a better service to the citizens of Fayette County. Fayette County Emergency Services has a very large turnover, mainly because their employees are not treated fairly. If these departments consolidate, the Fayetteville employees will all be dismissed or runoff in a short time, and replaced with new, untrained employees. Please don't allow this merger to occur, and the citizens of Fayetteville will be left with delays in emergency service in their most critical time.

intheknow
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Spyglass, moelarrycurly - FD

Spyglass,
Jonesboro was an entirely different scenario, an all volunteer FD with very limited funding and from what I was hearing at the time, often no one around to actually go on the calls. Basically Clayton County FD was running their calls for them, and if a volunteer happened to be at the Jonesboro station or responded there to get a truck, they would show up and assist Clayton County, at best.
moelarrycurly,
Yes, the trend is going the other way, and the CIty should be driving this train. Reality is, Brown Clowns statement about "they can't handle a structure fire without us responding" actually goes both ways. The county can play with the numbers all kinds of ways to produce smoke and mirrors, which the report that was presented (available on-line) just did. Without taking over the city to help fund the rest of the county, the county can't continue to deliver the services they do, they're already grossly understaffed and spread way too thin, the CIty of Fayetteville FD runs all over the county to assist them too. From the counties' perspective, they have to take Fayetteville or Peachtree City for the tax base, to subsidize the rest of the county. The only other alternative for FCES is to greatly increase their own customers millage rates, just to maintain the service level they're at, as they have little left to cut.
Throw in some major annexations, yes, eventually there could be "just two fire departments", Peachtree CIty and Fayetteville, meeting in the middle.
Locally just ask Palmetto, Fairburn, Chattahooce Hills, MIlton, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs why they broke off from their county run fire departments over the last ten years or so, and created their own Fire Departments.
My guess would be, if this consolidation does occur, five or ten years from now, Fayetteville residents will really regret that decision, and it's very expensive to go back.

moelarrycurly
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intheknow-Going back

after the talk last night, was the step that, I think, should really stick in the minds of the Fayetteville City Council. Once your FD is gone, it might never come back. This is a really tough process going on. As you say, there are so many issues, much of it the fallout from the downturned economy, the lack of tax revenue, having to cut staff to survive, at what cost those cuts come from, promises being made of no new taxes, ISO inspection coming for Fayetteville FD probably by the end of the year, annexations, automatic aid being cut back between departments, shortsightedness or at the very least unwise decisions on the Pinewood annexation and on and on, ad nauseam.

The results of whatever comes of this, even leaving it as is, could possibly have long range impact not only on Fayetteville and the unincorporated county, but Tyrone and Brooks, too. To hurry this along just so the developer out at Pinewood can have their own station and to force the decision by holding the ONLY public meeting on a spring break week, when the meeting was only made public last week was a mistake. It reeks of ramming this through. This is a really tough call, but to make it for short term benefit is not a solution. And kudos to the FC resident from the AFD, who shared so much wisdom and offered to assist in any way, my hat's off to him. Truly a leader and I did not hear an ego or a political word come from his mouth.

Spyglass
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Jonesboro recently did this in Clayton County..

Has anyone talked to the folks over there?

moelarrycurly
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Comments last night

Were that the trend is it is going other way-cities taking on more, not counties.

moelarrycurly
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Fox 5 & Comm. Brown

Wonder why he never uttered those words during the meeting.

http://www.myfoxatlanta.com/story/25211705/citizens-outraged-at-consolid...