Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

St. Marys Rethinking Fire Deal County Not Happy with Its End Either

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

St. Marys Rethinking Fire Deal County Not Happy with Its End Either

Article excerpt

ST. MARYS -- Nearly five years after getting out of the fire protection business, city officials are considering a proposal to get back in.

The officials think they can provide fire protection more cheaply and more efficiently than Camden County has since a 1995 agreement between the two entities was signed, St. Marys Mayor Jerry Brandon said.

Brandon hasn't ruled out a new fire agreement with the county, but both sides agree that it would have to be different from the original.

A hearing is planned this week to get public input on the matter.

City officials have complained about understaffing that violates the original agreement, rumors of run-down equipment and a lack of communication between the two governments regarding fire protection.

But perhaps the most contentious issue for both sides is the $75,000 the county pays annually to the city for equipment and maintenance of water lines and infrastructure.

The fee is a way for the county to help pay for the infrastructure necessary for good fire protection, Brandon said.

But county officials have balked at paying the money this year, saying it is unfair and exorbitant. The county shouldn't have to pay for a water system; that matter should be between the city water department and the city water customers, said County Administrator Barry King.

Another city complaint involves staffing.

When the terms of the original fire agreement were negotiated, county officials promised to maintain the same staffing levels that the city fire station on Dandy Street had, Brandon said. At that time, there were two paramedics and two city firefighters.

After the county took over, each of the workers was cross-trained to be able to handle either job and then two were moved to another county station.

That, Brandon said, was a violation of the agreement.

However, the county built another fire station within city limits on Colerain Road and firefighters also respond to St. Marys emergencies from the Gross Road fire station in Kingsland. …

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