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Guyton City Council fills public safety posts
Changes to fire service fee, fire department discussed
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Sgt. Joseph Coppola

 GUYTON — In a special called meeting Thursday night, the Guyton City Council named Sgt. Joseph Coppola interim police chief.

The move came in the wake of the Feb. 20 resignation of Public Safety Director Kenny McDonald.

Mayor Jeff Lariscy recommended Coppola for the position. Post 1 Council Member Steve Collins made a motion to support the mayor’s move and Post 3’s Joseph Lee seconded it.

Coppola was approved unanimously.

The mayor also moved to fill Guyton’s fire chief vacancy. He recommended Nick Smalley for the job but Scott Stringer ended up with it.

Post 4 Council Member Michael Johnson made a motion to name Stringer interim fire chief. He based his choice on Stringer being in the city more frequently than Smalley, who previously headed the volunteer Guyton Fire Department as chief and interim chief.

Collins seconded Johnson’s motion and Stringer was approved unanimously.  

Stinger didn’t accept the job immediately. He went into executive session with the council Thursday night and discussed the job further with city officials Friday before taking the job.

The fire chief post had been open since McDonald. The Guyton Fire Department currently falls under the public safety director’s supervision. 

During the meeting, council members briefly discussed making the fire department autonomous, a change that Stringer backs. The matter was tabled with intent to bring it up at a later date.

“I hate to but, for information, I think we need all that we can get to make the right decision,” Collins said.

“I totally agree,” the mayor said.

In April, the fire department’s coverage area is set to undergo an ISO review. To prepare, the council voted to hire an ISO consultant at a cost of approximately $7,000, Lariscy said.

The mayor told the council the fire department fund has a shortfall of about $40,000. He suggested collecting fire service fees via monthly water bills instead of property taxes.

“I just think it would kind of streamline the billing process so that we are getting a flow of funds into the fire department and it’s not typically one lump sum in November during property tax collections,” Lariscy said. 

Another benefit of collecting the fire service fee monthly is that it would allow budget alterations in a timely fashion, he said.

“Property tax collection is a one-time event,” he explained. “If you put (the fee) on the water bill and you realize that you are going to have a shortfall or that you are going to collect more revenue that anticipated, you have the opportunity at that point to make adustments.”

The issued was tabled in order to research a proper fee level and allow time to notify citizens of the process change. The council set next month as the target to start.