Fire Debate Continues

By: Stephanie Baker
By: Stephanie Baker

December 19, 2005
It’s a fight over combining fire departments in Columbia County. The county says one department means equal service. But some think it means less. News 12 is on your side with both sides of the debate, and what this all means for your safety.

On December 31, Columbia County combines its fire departments under one roof. The only exceptions: Harlem and Grovetown.

But people like Pastor Anthony Booker, who lives outside city limits, will also live outside city protection.

“You’re losing five to ten minutes and here in this area, five or ten minutes is someone’s life,” Booker said.

New Hope Baptist and all the other areas right around Harlem will be covered by Martinez-Columbia. And a new station is coming in only miles from his church.

The new Martinez-Columbia station will be right outside Harlem city limits on White Road.

Some worry it could take years to get that station up and running, but the EMA Director, Pam Tucker, says she’s got something ready to be shipped in within a week. She also offered to let Harlem continue service the area south of the city and pay those firefighters $2,000 a call.

“I didn’t want to leave anybody out who wanted to participate,” Tucker said.

But Harlem Mayor Scott Dean says this isn’t good for his budget.

“The cost of trucks, the cost of the personnel, the cost of the training is still there whether you roll or not,” Dean said.

He wants a guaranteed rate for the year, something the county attorney says they can’t pay. So Mayor Dean left the offer unsigned.

“We don’t care if it’s Harlem or Martinez-Columbia. We just want to make sure they have the same coverage across the county,” Dean said.

The county says the 170 firefighters on staff will do jus that, but some still fear the change.

The city of Grovetown is also separate and agreed to the pay-per-service agreement. There’s a town hall meeting tonight at New Hope Church in Harlem where local leaders will meet with anyone who has concerns. All of this will be final after tomorrow’s commission meeting, and everything goes into effect on the 31st of the month.


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