Fayette cuts automatic fire aid to F’ville

A Fayette County fire engine. File photo.

A June 27 letter from Fayette County Manager Steve Rapson about discontinuing the county’s automatic aid agreement with the Fayetteville Fire Department may have resulted in unexpected consequences.

Mayor Greg Clifton suggested that a lack of timely notification gave the appearance of the city being bullied by the county, with Rapson maintaining that Clifton was aware that the announcement was coming.

Rapson’s June 27 letter to Clifton said, “The current practice of providing automatic aid, which was started some time ago by previous fire chiefs, was never approved by Fayette County. Effective Aug. 1, our fire services will not provide this direct automatic aid type of response for supplemental fire suppression as contained within the existing 911 CAD (computer-aided dispatch) dispatch system. The existing dispatching protocols within the 911 CAD systems will be amended accordingly.”

The letter, which noted that mutual aid will continue, was provided to county commissioners at the conclusion of the June 26 meeting but no vote was taken.

Clifton in a June 27 email to Rapson, City Manager Joe Morton and members of the City Council and county commission said he was contacted by a media outlet inquiring about the county’s move to discontinue automatic aid in August. Clifton said it would have been good if he, Morton and council members had received an email “so we could have been aware that a formal letter was coming ...” so that he would not have been blindsided by the media.

“While I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt regarding the delivery of the letter to the city, the fact is that the phone call was the first that we have heard of the matter through official channels. I must say that this smacks of the episode with the school board, where the first notice that anyone in the city got that school board was considering closing three schools in Fayetteville was when we read it in the papers,” Clifton said.

“I understand that the county has to do what is in the best interest of the county residents, but then we are all county residents. I am concerned that the county is coming across as trying to bully the city, and that will not sell well on our side of the street. We have had a good relationship these first two and a half years of my administration, let’s not jeopardize the relationship now,” Clifton wrote.

Rapson in a June 27 email to Clifton said he apologized for the letter not having been sent first thing in the morning, adding that, “We discussed this letter in depth in my office; and the fact that it was going to be released this week, so I’m not sure how you feel ‘blindsided’ concerning this matter.”

Rapson continued saying, “There was certainty no ill will on our part with communicating this action. As you are aware, the chairman and I discussed fire services might need to contract if the fire consolidation was not being approved due to our political boundaries. This isn’t a bullying, it’s a consequence that was fully discussed prior to its decision.”

Councilman Ed Johnson in a June 27 email to Clifton provided his take on the issue.

“We are not jeopardizing the relationship, the county is by the unprofessional way they are handling these issues by not giving the city (staff or council) a courtesy heads-up,” Johnson said. ”I am glad our (fire department) is thinking ahead of the county’s ploys. I hope that you request a meeting with the county folks to get some idea of the tactics they are using.”

Fayetteville Fire Chief Alan Jones in mid-June advanced the idea of establishing a temporary fire station on the city’s west side as a hedge against the potential for Fayette County eliminating the longstanding automatic aid agreement with the city. It took only 11 days for the county to announce that automatic aid would end on Aug. 1.

Jones said an abandonment of the automatic aid agreement would affect response times to locations on the city’s west side and could adversely affect ISO (fire response time) ratings which could lead to higher insurance costs for property owners.

Jones said that the city should not take that chance, recommending that the city “go ahead and open a temporary station at (the) Togwotee Village” retail area on Ga. Highway 54 across from Piedmont Fayette Hospital.

Rapson in the June 27 letter said the county, “would be glad to consider any automatic aid proposals which the fire chiefs could agree to and subsequently put them forward for board consideration and approval.”

Rapson said the county will honor the commission-approved Pinewood intergovernmental agreement that details fire services for the area of west Fayetteville. Jones said that area includes the 1,200 acres annexed into the city nearly a year ago.

“Please recognize this agreement does not include any other portions of the city on the west side which have been covered by Fayette County Fire Station No. 11,” Rapson said.

Station No. 11 is located at 212 Flat Creek Trail approximately two miles from the city’s westernmost boundary.

Jones said preliminary conversations about the temporary relocation, including a possible pricing structure for the space, have been held with Togwotee Village representatives. He said the potential space will come with a good price though it will not provide a way to house a fire engine.

The city’s FY 2015 budget which begins in August is currently under consideration and includes three new firefighter positions. If approved, those new positions would accommodate staffing needs for the temporary station, Jones said.

Hometown Guy
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Stop the Madness!

It appears to me like Fayette County Commissioners and the County Manager are acting Very Childish! Taking their county fire trucks from the sand box, because they didn't get their way! The problem that I have is that the Citizens of both Fayetteville and the County are going to suffer from this action. I have been in this county a long time and seen both fire departments working together on several occasions on fires and car wrecks. I have watched the City of Fayetteville Council’s consolidation meeting videos and the City Fire Chief stated “they both needed each other”. Looking back, the Citizen consistently reports that both the City and County fire departments are always helping each other out on fires in each jurisdiction and they give each other credit for helping in the story. One elderly lady stated on the video “If it isn’t broke don’t fix it”! This is prime example of the large County bully attacking the little municipality. Not sure if this is Chairman Brown, County Mgr. Rapson or both pushing this. But it now seems this latest action is to just to settle a personal vendetta, because they didn’t get fire consolidation! This needs to stop immediately before someone, whether it is a citizen or firefighter, gets hurt or dies! Remember Commissioners you are elected, some even by Fayetteville residents! Stop the madness or we the citizens can! Fayetteville City Council continue to standup for yourself against the BULLY, because they are wrong!

Husband and Fat...
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Chairman and manager

Are at the forefront as they should be, but why no comments from McCarty, Ognio and Oddo? All have constituants affected. Brown only has to report to PTC residents who aren't directly affected. What do the MO &O express say about it?

Hometown Guy
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DO AS I SAY

It actually appears that Mayor Clifton and Paul Oddo are county puppets as well, under the Grand puppetmaster Brown and his apprentice Rapson. Paul Oddo(city) and Charles Oddo(County)is a conflict anyway.
Hey Commissioner McCarty, your family benefited from the city helping the County on your fire. I would like to see the same for my house!

http://www.thecitizen.com/articles/04-06-2014/fire-damages-n-fayette-hom...

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Think about it Hometown Guy

Are Brown and Rapson really the problem for just looking at the numbers like an accountant or is it really McCarty, Oddo and Ognio? The two outside the district simply see the savings as dollars and cents. The three who live within the districts have no fight in them. They've always been submissive to both.

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Sick of FC Politics

Oddo, Ogino and Barlow all ran campaigns against the West Fayetteville bypass. Then they purchase land for the East Fayetteville bypass? They are not leaders only followers of the Puppet master. They could do what is right and listen to the voters.

Brown and Rapson are the bigger problem. They have cut money, but at what cost? One cut was the Public Safety Benefit(PSB).They saved the county money, but at what cost. If you can't keep firefighters and deputies due to benefits pkg and salaries. The cost of the continuous cycle of training personnel would be greater than the loss of the PSB.

I knew people who worked for PTC and Union City, both agreed that Rapson cut money on paper. Once he left, it took more time and money to get the cities back to where they needed to be. If he was so great then why hasn't he stayed 10 or 15 yrs at one place. His hit and run tactics, are a temp fix. I have talked to a couple of current and previous county firefighters and they feel Chief Scarbough was placed in as Chief just as a Pawn. Chief Rapson is running the County Fire Department. They have lost many good guys and more are looking at leaving. Guess my fire tax will be going up in the next year or two. They feel dropping aid is bad for them and public too! They can't speak or repercussion will follow. Apparently Rapson hasn't been messing with Sheriff department to bad, guess he has been to busy running the fire department.

If Brown was so good why isn't he still in PTC! He was voted out cause people were tired of his antics. Hopefully,PTC will do this again.

The county is trying to take city fire protection only for money from Pinewood in inspections and its future fire tax. It shows that they could care less about the rest of the city and is why they are dropping Automatic Aid. This is apparent in the article above. I hope that no lives are lost in the city or county due to a political agenda.

Husband and Fat...
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You hit the nail on the head

The other 4 are not leaders. They were hand picked to run. Then in early January when Barlow opened his mouth and started discussing a new chairman, they all backed down. Why do you think that was? To silence Mr. Brown? Brown is the only leader among the 5 and I have to give him good marks since he took over as chair. Does he do everything right, no, but he's the best that we elected and he gives 100%.

The county manager always had the rap as a smoke and mirrors guy. He sees the numbers and makes the recommendations to save now.

I don't have a dog in this fight, but it seems like the rush to push Pinewood has resulted in ramifications that were not well thought out and only now rising to the surface.

In the end, I think the city and county fire chiefs will work this out and gain approval from both boards.

Night Train
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Firefighter_24

Short end of it, your administration (Steve Rapson and BOC) have caused issues with the working relationship between the county and city. If you have been around for any amount of time you know they have always worked well together. The meeting I saw indicated when the Safer Grant was in place the city did have 4 fire fighters per truck. When the grant expired, they did drop back down to 3 on one truck and 2 on the other. Station for station the county and city are equal when it comes to fire fighters on the Engine. I also did not hear anyone say they did not need or want the county's assistance. As for the money in the city. The county has raised taxes more than the city has in the past years. The city is going to raise the mil by .25 and thats the first increase in many years. I hope both fire services survive this and can still work together regardless of the political stance.

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night train

I have been here for quite some time and yes we have always worked well together because that is our job. The county has never implied that we have 4 or even 3 to an engine. The city however told their citizens they always have 4. As for not needing the county...when you see city firefighters getting on social media telling the citizens that their level of service is about to diminish......or when city firefighters tell citizens that the county does not know how to fight fires or that they are cowards.......or that we leave people to die on the street.....and when all of the lies are told at a meeting and the long line of city firefighters applaud...actions speak louder than words. Let's talk about why the city firefighters were so against the merger. Was it about the citizens...no. It was about part timers losing their job, not wanting to ride medic truck, not wanting to get the required training or degrees and not wanting to follow a little stricter rules. I love my job and will continue to work well with the city because that is what is best for the citizens. But please stop making the county out to be the bad guys and the city nothing but angels. Stay safe brother.

Night Train
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Firefighter_24

You are correct about a few things. There were some ugly remarks made but certain people but those people do not speak for everyone. Being hurt and angry at those remarks I understand. Making the county out to be bad is not what is going on. It has nothing to do with the fire service. You know it's true, it is Steve Rapson running the organization and that is where the entire problems started. He said that the service would improve with consolidiation and the fact is it would not improve at all. Staff from the city line were going to be offered positions in Fayette County Head Quarters so that would take 3 off line. They were going to have 2 Fire fighters on the Engine at 91 instead the 3 (that is current staffing). As for the EMS, Fayette has the best around and always has. You will not find better medics than those at the county and I don't think I heard anyone say the county EMS not providing quality life saving serivce. If you read the paper after it failed you would see that a lot of it was under handed and know one realy knew the truth. Per Chairman Brown, Fayetteville will be broke in 5 years, wonder why they wanted it so bad. I hope and pray that people forgive those that said hurtful things and I know that will not happen quickly, the fire fighters have to look past things and work to serve the residence of the community. I hope the Firefighters in the city and county continue to look out for each other even with the changes coming in August. Stay safe and God Bless both departments.

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night train

I agree that all of this is nothing but political back lash. However, FFD and the citizens at the famous meeting made it perfectly clear that they did not want or need FCFD. FCFD heard how that if we consolidate that the level of care and fire service would diminish, but you never heard FCFD comment on how if the consolidation went through the level of EMS care would have dropped. The county's ISO should not change with E-4 back in service and with a new station in the works a couple of years from now. The city has no money and the taxes are having to skyrocket across the board just so the city can keep their head above water. But apparently 3 ff will be able to staff a new station? I thought the city always had 4 on an engine? No way that happens! Do I agree with automatic aid being taken away.....no. I care for the citizens of this county. With that being said, if FFD and Fayetteville residents don't need the county, then I say good luck and call WHEN you need us.

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Now the smoke clears

And we see how the county administrator and BOC respond when they don't get what they want. County residence need to know that Fayetteville also provided automatic aid to the county just as the county did for the city. This was a win win for both the city and county and now both will feel the negative impact of the counties decision. Can't wait to see what the County and Cities ISO rating's will be now. I can tell you they will not be going down but don't worry Steve Rapson and Steve Brown you live in PTC so you are not affected by any of this. That must be nice.
Unfortunately the ones that are really hurt by the change in automatic aid are the residence of the county and city and those that serve the residence of the county and city (The Fire Fighters). Chief Jones had the foresight to plan ahead and look for a temporary location for a fire station on the west side. The city needs to provide its own fire coverage and it also needs to take care of Pinewoods fire protection and inspections. Seeing how the IGA has or is going to expire, maybe the city will do what's best for the city and not renew the IGA with the county. Now that might toss a little kink in Steve Rapsons plan for 2 new inspectors he requested for Pinewoods but then again he should not be so arrogant and think it's all going to go his way. I also wonder if the Automatic aid agreement with Fulton County and Fairburn are being looked at. I would like to see the in depth study Chief Scarbrough did on the response area or is there even such a report. Chief Scarbrough, if this goes south and something bad was to happen because of this change, I assure you you will be the one that takes the fall. If you think your years of service and loyalty counts for something, try asking the previous fire chief what he thinks about that. Remember "No Safety Net"!!!!
Fire fighters in the city and county will continue to respond to fire calls and will do as they always have "A Great Job" regardless of the decisions made by Chief Rapson and the BOC.
Mayor Clifton and City Council, do what is best for the city and stop being the door mat for Fayette County Admin. This has absolutly nothing to do with the Fire Departments, but all to do with political backlash for a failed consolidation. Let's put it like this, it's like riding in a car, are you always gonna be the backseat passenger or are you gonna take the keys and drive?

Husband and Fat...
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I wonder

I wonder if Fleisch or Learnard are going to stick their nose into this squabble and tell their counterparts in Fayetteville to suck it up because they knew about it. Just kidding. lol

I'm sure Fayetteville knew this was coming, but perhaps not when. A courtesy call to warn officials would have been nice. Sort of like not knowing about the secret tax breaks offered to businesses.

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