JASPER, Ga. – “We’re old country people. We always work on a handshake and a person’s word is his bond.” These were the words of Pickens County Commissioner Rob Jones when questioned about an outstanding issue of a water tank for what is known as the Wildcat Community.
A set area along the line of Dawson and Pickens Counties, the community stretches between and has shared in an Automatic Aid Agreement between the two. They are served by Dawson County Fire Station 8, a volunteer fire station that actually sits inside of Pickens County but is manned by Dawson.
A growing confusion from citizens is attempting to find a single point catalyst for tensions regarding the issue of the fire station, with some pointing to a missing extra water tank, and others pointing to a recent fire that destroyed a home on Burnt Mountain Ridge Road that was not responded to by that Fire Station.
Station 8 was constructed on Monument Road in 2008 by Pickens County in an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with Dawson County.
The questions and concerns over the station have grown so much that the community held a town hall over the issue involving both Dawson and Pickens County Officials to ask questions. Those questions include why it took so long for Fire Station 8 to respond to the fire on Burnt Mountain Ridge Road, why was Fire Station 8 not dispatched promptly since it is only 2.5 miles from the fire? Later in the meeting, the community did also ask what became of the water tank the organizers say Dawson County promised to provide.
A question that Chairman Jones says isn’t an issue with him anymore because he knows where the issue stands now with Dawson. Jones did not comment on whether he believed the community still had an issue. Jones did also admit that he had no idea why Station 8 was not initially contacted in response to the recent fire.
He noted that as a Volunteer Fire Station, those at station 8 would not have directly engaged the fire, but would instead have been there to contain the fire, prevent it from spreading, ensured the safety of citizens in the vicinity, and preset the area so that when county firefighters did arrive, they could immediately engage the blaze with little setup work.
Additionally, Jones noted that having volunteers familiar with the community helps expedite firefighter response to a location as they can help direct and guide the approach on back roads the firefighters may not know.
Jones also stated that during the two-hour town hall meeting he was questioned, “The question was asked of me at the end of the meeting, would Pickens County consider taking the station over?” Jones says that he answered by saying that if the community wanted Pickens to do it, they would.
However, Jones contends that he had no intentions for the Fire Station saying that he has trusted Dawson County over the years and had good relations with them with previous commissions. He said he did not want to “throw them out,” referencing Dawson County.
“My main concern is the safety and well-being of the people of Pickens County,” said Jones. He insisted that he wanted to continue with an Intergovernmental Agreement and the established Automatic Aid Agreement.
He went on to state, “I am not telling anybody up there that they don’t need to deal with Dawson County. I have never said, nor will I say that. That’s up to them.”
Another symptom of this rising issue came from Dawson County taking issue with Station members attending training in Pickens County. A fact that Jones said he offers to all volunteer fire fighters in the County as it is a training they must stay up-to-date with.
Still, Jones made note that volunteers are still volunteers. Working with them on their schedule is a part of the package according to Jones who said, “You have to work with them as well as they work with you. It’s not a one-sided game.”
He went on to specify that he does not tell these volunteers to attend Pickens County training saying, “If the individuals up there want to come to Pickens County for training, they can come to Pickens County for training. If they have training going on in Dawson County, they can go to Dawson County for training. We’re not telling them where to go.”
Jones said the State provides guidelines to go by on how to handle fires, those guidelines will match across counties.
During the Pickens County Commissioner’s work session, Jones stated that the county has been approached to take over the station and later confirmed they would be moving forward with that request.
With the Intergovernmental Agreement set in 2008 and an Automatic Aid Agreement in 2009, the station has been up for almost ten years. Taking on new volunteers is not something Jones wants as they move forward with taking control of the fire station. Jones said he didn’t care where they trained or which county they are from, “if you want to be a volunteer, we will proceed forward.”
It is an issue that Dawson County does not agree with. December has seen 13 volunteer firefighters resign in the face of directive from Dawson County Fire and Emergency Services Director Danny Thompson to attend a mandatory training session.
FYN recently reported in a Dawson County Article, “Fire Station 8 volunteers a no-show at training submit their resignations:”
Thursday morning, Thompson summoned Lt. John Tarantini — who supervises Station 8 – to a meeting. “It was my intention to demote him back to support staff for failure to follow an order and insubordination,” Thompson said. “He declined to sign the paperwork and instead tendered his resignation.”
Tarantini also brought with him the resignation of the 12 other volunteers who work at Station 8, which Thompson accepted. That effectively closes the station for now. Station 6 on Hubbard Road in Big Canoe is the closest manned fire station to the Wildcat Community which lies in both Dawson and Pickens counties.
Additionally, Dawson County responded to their resignations and citizens concerns with a press release stating, ” In no way do the recent resignations of Station 8 volunteer support personnel members affect the ISO rating for this community, nor does it decrease the level of service provided.”
Jones has indicated during the County’s Work Session that the Board wants nothing to change between Pickens and Dawson counties moving forward. He said, “We still want to do an Automatic Aid Agreement, if they so desire. Our main goal is for the protection and cooperation of the Citizens in the community. Wildcat Community, as they call themselves, has got money and time invested in that station. Pickens County does, too. And Dawson County does, also.”
By Jeff Jones
Most thinking Georgians will no doubt agree that only illegal aliens require classification as “deferred action on deportation” or who may be under deportation orders from the federal government.
Most Georgians will be surprised to learn that Georgia’s Department of Drivers Services (DDS), the agency responsible for our driving and ID credentials, has issued, renewed or replaced more than 50,000 driver’s licenses and/or official state ID Cards to illegal aliens. These illegal aliens have either “deferred action on deportation” proceedings or are already under federal deportation orders. And that issuance of these official state documents is perfectly legal under current federal and state law.
Surprisingly, the 2005 federal REAL ID Act, passed after the horror of 9/11 says that states can optionally issue drivers licenses to illegals with “deferred action on deportation” and that the feds will allow this ID to be used to board airliners. The law says that “deferred action” is “evidence of lawful status” for federal acceptance of driver’s licenses as an official ID. The REAL ID Act guidelines from the feds are merely minimum requirements and standards for federal recognition – not legal requirements.
Georgia state law currently also allows “deferred action” illegals to get an official Georgia driver’s license and ID card. Surprisingly, but factually, Georgia has more illegals than Arizona.
In 2012 the Associated Press ran a news article headlined “Some illegal immigrants can get Georgia drivers licenses” explaining Georgia’s California-like situation. But, if you call your local DDS office, you will be told in – no uncertain terms – that “Georgia does not issue drivers licenses or ID Cards to illegal or undocumented immigrants.” Confusing, isn’t it? Many Georgia legislators think DDS should try harder to explain this scenario and how it is that DDS is issuing driver’s licenses to illegals.
Again, federal law does not say we must issue drivers licenses and ID cards to deferred action illegals. Instead, each state has the right to decide to whom it issues drivers licenses or ID Cards. And, importantly, Georgia officials also have the right to decide on the physical appearance of these credentials.
This brings me to the fact that the drivers licenses and ID Cards Georgia’s DDS gives to illegal aliens with “deferred action on deportation” are exactly like the ones we issue to legal immigrants, student visa holders and guest workers such as Mercedes Benz and KIA executives here from Germany and Korea, all who entered the United States legally.
This policy can and must be changed.
Georgia has the choice to issue a driver’s license to those with deferred action that will still allow them to drive, but that does not fit the federal requirements to be used as “ID for federal purposes” – like boarding an airliner or entering a federal building. And we can – and I firmly believe we must – change the appearance of these credentials so that no one will mistake the holder for a legal immigrant or a legitimate guest worker here on a legal temporary visa.
Currently at least two states, California and Michigan, issue multiple tiers of drivers licenses. The lower tiers are not recognized as federally approved ID and cannot be used as such. But the bearer can still drive.
I would use Mexico as another example here but Mexico does not allow any illegal aliens to obtain any type of driver’s license.
Georgia already issues a distinctly different driver’s license to young Americans that is vertically oriented and clearly marked “under 21.”
Realizing the United States is not going to be as strict as Mexico, Georgia should issue a vertically oriented ID, like we do for young drivers, to illegals with “deferred action on deportation” or who have been ordered deported, despite that the feds say we are not required to do so.
My bill, HB 484, pending in the Georgia Gold Dome requires DDS to end its current practice and to replace the driving and ID credentials now issued to illegal aliens with a vertically oriented, brightly colored card. This new ID card is designed to make it unmistakably and visually clear that the bearer is not a legal immigrant and that the ID is not acceptable for federal ID purposes. It would look something like the mock up pictured here.
Georgians will also be surprised to learn that many state legislators are not well educated on this topic. Because I introduced this measure late in the 2017 session, it has not had a committee hearing and is in need of legislative co-sponsors. Readers who agree this idea adds some sanity to our driver’s license and ID Card integrity should ask their House member to sign on as co-sponsors and support my bill, HB 484. This is vitally important for the State of Georgia.
Jeff Jones (R) D167, is a second term Georgia State Representative. He can be contacted at: email@example.com; (404) 565-0177