Wilson said County Fire Chief Tracy Smith will be at the meeting to answer questions about the cost of building new fire stations to provide service in those areas. All county residents are invited to attend, regardless of the district where they live.
The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Old Camp United Methodist Church, 77 Old Camp Church Road, Carrollton.
Also on the agenda are county Tax Commissioner Vickie Bearden to discuss the new Georgia car tag and title tax and Matt Windom, executive director of the Carroll County Water Authority, to talk about the system’s tap fees.
“Some of the people in my district have had their homeowners insurance rates go through the roof,” Wilson said.
The rate increases are due to recent recalculations of distances of houses from the nearest fire stations, which is one factor used to calculate the ISO ratings that determine insurance rates. The ISO ratings go from 1 to 10, with 1 being the best. Houses more than five miles from a fire station are being rated 10. Smith said distances greater than 1,000 feet from the nearest fire hydrant also raise the rating.
“I had a call from a gentleman this week whose insurance went from $2,500 to $7,000 per year,” Smith said.
He said about 500 structures, houses and businesses, in the Tyus area, and another 750 in the Hulett area, have been raised from an ISO rating of 5 to a 10 rating.
“This represents several millions of dollars in insurance increases,” he said.
The situation was discussed last May at a Board of Commissioners meeting and then-commission Chairman Bill Chappell suggested the county might look into using inmates as firefighters, as has been done in Sumter County. However, the idea drew quick criticism from other commission members and was dropped.
The county has been planning to build new fire stations in the Tyus and Hulett communities for some time, but has faced budget shortfalls. Land has already been purchased for the Hulett station.
“We could build the stations with SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) money, but the problem is budgeting for the manpower to operate the stations,” Wilson said. “We’d need six new employees for each station, two per shift, a total of 12 for both stations.”
“We want to look into the feasibility of building the stations and what the actual costs will be,” Smith said. He said the study will be submitted to the Board of Commissioners, showing all the costs of building the stations, buying equipment and hiring additional personnel.
“We’re absolutely going to look at it,” commission Chairman Marty Smith said Thursday. “We’re going to get some firm numbers and see how real they are and what we can afford to do. A lot of our current fire equipment is getting outdated and we have to address the whole department.”
He said the budgeting process begins this month and goes through June, so now’s the time to look at the numbers and see if the two more stations are feasible.
The county now has 13 fire stations and 108 employees. The operating budget is $6,816,430, with about $4.4 million being for salaries and benefits.