Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fire Contract Not Renewed; Hilliard: County Stops Using Town's Service; Both Sides Say Public Safety Will Not Suffer

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fire Contract Not Renewed; Hilliard: County Stops Using Town's Service; Both Sides Say Public Safety Will Not Suffer

Article excerpt

Byline: Amelia A. Hart, Nassau Neighbors staff writer

A decades-old agreement between the town of Hilliard and Nassau County for the town's Volunteer Fire Department to provide firefighting services in the surrounding county imploded last week.

After months of tension between officials, Nassau County commissioners voted not to renew their contract with the town. The contract will expire at the end of September.

Debate about how well Hilliard was providing the service that the county was paying for has strained relations between town and county officials, but both sides say the dissolution of the agreement will not impact public safety in or around the town.

"We're going to protect the citizens of Hilliard," Mayor David Buchanan said.

Officials in Hilliard, which has had a fire department since 1954, said the town's roster of volunteers is now up to 11, and efforts to recruit more are continuing. One of the town's two engines that recently had been out of commission is now repaired and back in service. The town's tanker leaks, but it's functional, Buchanan said.

With the end of the contract, Hilliard no longer will be contractually required to respond to fires in the 240-square-mile District 4. It also won't be receiving any more funds from the county. Under the most recent contract, Hilliard was paid $44,348 for it services.

The only impact for the town's fire department is financial, Fire Commissioner Cris McConnell said.

"Any time you lose $44,000 out of a budget, it's a hardship, but we will manage," McConnell said.

Buchanan said the town will proceed with its plans to purchase a new tanker and a brush truck for the department.

Nassau County Fire Rescue, which stationed its first firefighters/paramedics in Hilliard in 1999, boosted the number of personnel assigned to Hilliard in April.

That's when Hilliard informed the county that the number of certified firefighters on the volunteer department dipped below the four required by the contract. …

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