More property taxes could fund Columbia County improvements

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Five million dollars...that's what Columbia County expected to bring in by consolidating the government under the same system as Augusta-Richmond County.

But consolidation is on hold until at least next year, meaning that the county may turn to property taxes to pay for its projects.

There is a list of things that needs to be done in Columbia County.

Firefighters say some of their equipment is dangerously outdated.

They say their portion of the money would go a long way to keep the almost 90,000 people in Columbia County safe.

Their response time is just a few minutes, and the fire is out almost as soon as it started.

That was Jimmy Reborn's experience when his house caught fire.

"They responded as quick as they could. They did a real good job," Reborn says.

But practice makes perfect. The Columbia County Fire Department has used the same training house for seven years. Chief Danny Kuhlman says that's two years too long.

"It's in really bad shape. It needs to be replaced," Kuhlman says.

The holes in the floor and charred walls make it even more dangerous.

"It wears the metal out real quick and rusts," says Kuhlman.

They need about $700,000 for a new training center and fire station.

Chief Kuhlman says better training means better protection for you.

"It keeps the veterans up on their skills and teaches the rookies new skills to be able to do their job."

Another part of the job is how to fight a fire several stories up.

We got a first-hand look at their three-story practice building. The new one would be at least seven, better practice for real fires and better coverage for people like Jimmy Reborn.

"These men and women are out here risking their lives," Reborn says.

He says the extra money he may pay in property taxes is worth it to keep firefighters on top of their game.

A new fire training center is just one of the improvements the county wants to make.

Others are improvements to the sewer system, adding sidewalks near some schools, road improvements, new parks, and new fire trucks.

The county wants to hear from you on which ones are most important.

They have three meetings coming up: April 13 at 6:00 pm in Evans, May 11 at 6:00 pm in Appling, and June 8 at 6:00 pm in Evans.

All this could mean a slight increase in property taxes, something that may be up for a vote in November's election.