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Rincon, county to work on fire station location

POSTED: November 11, 2013 8:09 p.m.

Fire coverage west of Rincon is expected to improve with the construction of a new station. Just where that station will be could be a matter to be resolved through continued talks between Effingham County commissioners and Rincon City Council members.


Rincon recently bought about 60 acres along Blue Jay and McCall roads with the intention to build a fire station there, though the county has had plans to build a station along Hodgeville Road.


Rincon City Manager Wesley Corbitt and Rincon Fire Chief Corey Rahn explained to commissioners why the city bought the property for $365,000 in September. The land also came with a building, and the city is considering using that building and the 5 acres around it for a fire station. Corbitt has said the city has no interest in the remainder of the property but purchased it in order to secure the land it wanted for a possible fire station.


Corbitt said the city was on a deadline, but with its ISO rating review, rather than closing on the land. The city got a six-month extension on its ISO reporting but must have it completed by Dec. 24 in order to avoid having to go through a complete re-test, he explained.


Corbitt asked the commissioners to reconsider building a fire station on Hodgeville Road.


“We have an opportunity to work together and to provide service to our citizens and to our district,” Corbitt said. “It’s going to save us some dollars by spreading our service over four stations. We think it’s a great opportunity for the county and Rincon.”


Corbitt said he sees building a fire station at McCall and Blue Jay as an opportunity to save $1 million, and perhaps as much as $2 million, over 10 years. It also will provide better fire service in that area, he added.


“The coverage looks like it would be better with a station in that area,” he said.


Said Rahn: “The best fire coverage for our district, that’s the next best place. We’re at the point where the contractor needs y’all’s blessing before we can open the fire station.”

County and city staffs will trade data on the proposed stations and how much area and residents will be covered.


“If that amount of money can be saved, I think it’s a no-brainer,” Commissioner Vera Jones said of the Blue Jay station. “But we have to have proof that amount of money can be saved.”


The city missed lowering its ISO rating to a 3 by mere fractions, according to Corbitt. Lowering the ISO to a 3 could result in significant savings on homeowners’ insurance, Corbitt continued.


Rahn said buying the property was his idea. The land was up for auction, and he brought the notion of buying it to his city council.


“They deserve the same coverage as people on Ebenezer Road,” he said. “The citizens on Lowground Road with a class 10 deserve a class 4. I have a commitment to the citizens of the county in my district. They’re paying the same property taxes.”


The proposed site for the city’s planned station is 4.6 miles from its main station on West 17th Street. A distance over five miles means the city would lose its ISO rating points for personnel at the station, Rahn said.


Chairman Wendall Kessler inquired about the arrangement for the city’s station on Ebenezer Road, which was part of the service delivery strategy eventually ironed out between the county and the municipalities. He also posited that if the Blue Jay station is built it could release the county from its obligation to pay the city for the Ebenezer Road station under the service delivery agreement.


The county also was looking to purchase right-of-way there for planned improvements at the Blue Jay-McCall intersection, and the city’s acquisition of that land could protect the county’s interest in that right-of-way, Kessler said.


The chairman further said the most ideal spot for a fire station in that area might not be where the city intends but just a little more down the road.


As part of its short-term work program, the county is projecting to spend $398,000 on the LaDessie Zeigler Road, Courthouse Road, Tusculum and Pineora fire stations. The STWP also includes money ticketed to pay for a fire engine at each of the Tusculum and Pineora fire stations.


The county’s capital project plan also includes $400,000 for a Hodgeville Road station, but if the county does decide to spend that money, it won’t do so until fiscal year 2017. The station itself, estimated at a cost of $400,000, also isn’t in the works until 2016-17.


As community relations director Adam Kobek pointed out during the approval of the short-term work program, any approval of projects or purchases under the short-term work program beyond the current fiscal year doesn’t guarantee completion.


Kessler also reiterated his advocacy for a consolidation of fire services and hoped the city would be amenable to discussions on the topic.


“If we can provide better service or equal service for less money,” he said, “that’s the end we need to be working toward.”

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