The city of Guyton is looking at ways to bolster its fire department and its fire services.
The city is waiting for its ISO rating and council members discussed what the fire department will need in the future.
“The fire department, no matter what the outcome of the ISO is, is still going to need operating capital,” said Fire Chief Gary Jarriel. “What capacity that is in the future, we won’t know until we get the ISO back in.”
Mayor Jeff Lariscy said the city may look at a five-year capital plan and for a plan to buy fire engines. He said the high cost of apparatus, such as turnout gear and oxygen tanks, needs to be considered also.
The Guyton department is hoping to get its ISO rating in less than a month.
“There is no set science when they give you the answer,” Jarriel said.
Jarriel said the city is in talks with Effingham County about its fire services contract.
“A lot of this hinges on the ISO rating,” he said.
Council member Steve Collins said he would like to see input on the budget and see what spending may have to be done in order it improve the ISO rating.
“It might show us areas of weakness we’ve missed that need to be addressed in the budget to make the fire department better,” he said.
Jarriel said one area the city will be weak in is water supply. The ISO rating also could be affected by the city’s lack of paid staff on duty.
“That’s something we’ve talked about and something we’ve talked about down the road,” Jarriel said.
Costs for fire equipment also are increasing, Jarriel said. While the city has good equipment, it has two 2000 model fire engines that will need to be repaired and replaced at some point.
“The cost of living is not going down anywhere. The cost of everything in the fire service industry is going up and p and up,” the chief said.
Several items on one of the engines have been repaired and replaced this year because of their age, Jarriel said.
“Just because we have a deal in place with the county where they fund a certain amount of our fire department, that meets the operating expense,” Jarriel said, “not the capital expense we’re going to be looking at down the road.”
Guyton City Council members are considering changes to the city’s fire fees, which currently are $40 for homes and $55 for commercial and industrial tracts.
On the table is a measure to the residential fire fees to $65, residential-based businesses to pay $70, commercial and industrial tracts to pay $80 each and churches to pay $40.
Churches have not been charged with fire fees, and Lariscy said he was in a meeting Chief Jarriel had with local pastors to discuss instituting the fee on churches.
“They said they had no problem whatsoever,” Lariscy said. “They said they would love to support the fire department. I think a couple of them said, ‘$40, we need to give them more than that.’”
Jarriel said they did an extensive study of similar fire departments in the area, and Guyton’s rates were extremely low.
“I’m not saying we’re behind the curve, but we’re very modest in our fees,” he said.
Council member Franklin Goldwire said he saw the value of the fire department is when he had a fire in his house.
“It took that event for me to realize that,” he said. “Hopefully, no one will have to experience that.”