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The Post Volunteer Fire Department now has a standing invitation to become part of Fort Oglethorpe Fire & Rescue but Post leaders have neither refused nor accepted it.
Mayor Judd Burkhart proposed the move after Marlin Thompson, the chairman of the Posts board of directors, came before the council on Monday to dispel rumors about the proposed consolidation with Catoosa County Fire & Rescue.
Post Volunteer at this point hasnt agreed to consolidation, he said. We have agreed to discuss the future which may or may not include consolidation.
The Post, which is an independent nonprofit organization, has historically been attached to Fort Oglethorpes fire department, but there is no written agreement between the two entities a problem Post leaders urged city officials to correct as soon as possible. Fort Oglethorpes seven hired fire employees supplement the 80-volunteer Post department by a verbal agreement that has stood since the Posts inception in 1951. One chief, Bruce Ballew, heads both departments and his salary comes out of the citys budget.
Fort Oglethorpe has historically maintained the vehicles.
County officials have discussed consolidation as a means of saving money and providing better service, something Burkhart said wouldnt happen under the proposed plans.
Burkhart suggested meeting privately with fire officials and one or two council members and the city manager to discuss options. He said he couldnt comment on whether Fort Oglethorpe would stand on its own, fighting fires only inside the city limits if consolidation happens between the county and the Post because that would be the entire councils decision. Any comments at this point would be speculative, he said.
He did say the county would see a drastic increase in costs and would have difficulty keeping a low insurance rating. He also said that if litigation has to go on then it would, and he hopes the city and Post will officially combine soon.
We dont feel that they have a leg to stand on, he said of the county. As far as Im concerned, the Post and Fort Oglethorpe are the same.
Burkhart said the city stands behind its firefighters at both the Post and in Fort Oglethorpe and had no plans to meet without representatives from all parties involved.
Were not going to let them take you over, he said of the county. Were 100 percent behind you guys.
Despite rumors to the contrary, the Post board would need to vote for consolidation to happen with either the county or Fort Oglethorpe, Thompson said. He said the board will vote according to the wishes of all the members and it has yet to make a decision.
We dont expect to make any decisions until the county brings everybody together to discuss everything, he said. They cant just come in and take us over unless were willing to do so Were in a good position to negotiate with whoever we need to.
Catoosa County commissioners at a recent retreat near Cartersville discussed hiring more full-time firefighters and said they planned to consolidate the county with the Post. Commissioner Bobby Winters, the only county representative at Fort Oglethorpes meeting, said the rumors have gotten out of hand since the news of consolidation talks broke at the end of June.
Our meeting was about how many new firemen we could hire, he said. We went down there to discuss our budgets, wasnt nothing about hurting the fire departments or anything like that.
The Post does have an agreement with the county to provide fire service outside Fort Oglethorpes city limits when needed. The Post and Fort Oglethorpe, which answer calls in the city and west Catoosa County, received $175,000 for Fort Oglethorpe and $216,000 for Post Volunteer Fire Department from the county in the last budget year.
Fort Oglethorpe included a request to the county for an additional $145,000 for Fort Oglethorpe Fire & Rescue that added to a request from the Post asking for $492,000 more in the upcoming budget, officials said.
Thompson said the additional money would pay for eight full-time firefighters.
He said there have been about three meetings over the last nine months on the possibility of consolidation. He described the discussions as light conversations and stressed that no decisions have been made.
Thompson said the next Post board meeting is Wednesday, July 11, but it is unlikely the board will make any major changes then.
In other business at the meeting on Monday, the council:
* Raised administrative assistant Carol Murrays salary from $46,000 to $54,000.
* Announced the city received $200,000 in federal grant money to go toward the Streetscape project on LaFayette Road. The money will be used to improve the intersections at Harker Road and Forrest Road, the mayor said, so that other grant money can be used on the main stretch of LaFayette Road.
* Approved an additional $14,800 for surveying the land from Forrest Road to Gilbert Drive in preparation for Streetscape.
* Voted to ban left turns onto Battlefield Parkway at Alamar Street and Fort Oglethorpe Nursing Home Road. Officials said state Department of Transportation officials agreed with the move because there have been several accidents at those intersections.
* Announced they will begin taking bids for replacing the city pool within a few weeks.
* Agreed to post a list of unneeded items in an online surplus property auction at govdeals.com. City Attorney Ron Goulart said the items posted on the site so far have brought in a lot more money than if the city had thrown them away. A bid for one piece of ditch equipment brought in more than the city paid for it, he said.
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