JASPER, Ga. – A press release from Pickens County could indicate a positive movement on the recent troubles and issues of Dawson County Fire Station 8.
Pickens County Commission Chairman Robert Jones and Dawson County Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond met on Wednesday the 12th to discuss the recent discrepancies involving Fire Station 8 located off Monument Road. The meeting was productive in making clear the desires and expectations of both counties. The Chairmen agreed the most crucial aspect is to provide adequate fire protection for both counties’ citizens. The two men representing their respected Boards tentatively agreed to work together to solve these discrepancies and guarantee proper service to this area. The Chairmen also tentatively agreed to begin renegotiating a new Intergovernmental Agreement that will reflect the desires of both government agencies as well as the citizens in the affected community. Chairman Jones believes the meeting was in good faith from both sides and is appreciative for Chairman Thurmond’s willingness to build constructively on the partnership between both counties. Chairman Jones is optimistic in the direction this situation has taken and believes the result will be beneficial to all involved.
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.”
Jasper, GA – The Board of Commissioners were excited to announce the approval of the new fire station in Pickens County off of Carlan Road. The county will be purchasing two acres for $13,500 per acre. Board Member Jerry Barnes states this is an ideal location.
Members approved the signing of the credit card resolution. This states that elected officials who have a credit card through the county are responsible for their own credit card accounts.This will hopefully prevent any unforeseen problems for the county.
The Board of Commissioners currently have two cards, the Sheriff’s Office has three cards, and the Magistrate Court has one card.
The Good Samaritan Clinic Construction contract was also signed to begin construction for an additional building at the clinic. This will allow for more space and care at the Good Samaritan. Cooper and Co. are moving forward with construction of the project.
Under old business the board signed the Capital Lease for new sheriff’s office vehicles. This will allow the purchase of ten more patrol vehicles. Our county SPLOST dollars will cover the expense.
The board discussed the approval of the Gilmer Water Agreement, allowing our two counties to connect water lines for purchasing or selling water to each other.
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