Small steps for fire stations

Jehu Post, Beaverdam’s fire chief, isn’t sure he’d call the planning meeting between fire stations on Oct. 17 a unity meeting, but then again, he might.

“If we (stations) all fall underneath the strategic plan, then we’re all working on the same page. … I guess that’s where the ‘unity’ word came into it,” Post said.

The meeting, planned by Oglethorpe County’s Emergency Services Commission and Emergency Services Director Jason Lewis, brought the county’s 15 fire stations together to discuss goals and priorities for their stations.

This was the first gathering of representatives from all fire stations since Vesta and Glade separated from the county’s volunteer firefighter association. Lewis said the purpose of the meeting, and the two meetings to come, is to allow the commission to create a strategic plan for the group. The next meeting will be held on Nov. 21.

Bo Tucker, Glade’s fire chief, said his station left the association as a result of leadership concerns and finances. He hopes these issues will be addressed in the strategic plan, though he isn’t confident the plan will happen if the county votes “no” on the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST) on Nov. 8.

“I’m hoping this strategic plan works out, if the T-SPLOST doesn’t get passed in the county vote I don’t think it’s going to happen,” Tucker said. “The county is already strict enough on trying to give us money in the first place.”

If the strategic plan is completed, Lewis said it will assist the commission in allocating money and planning for station-specific purchases.

“To be able to put that in some type of plan, and from that plan develop a strategy, then we’re doing less reactive purchasing in the future,” Lewis said.

Reactive purchasing typically occurs as a response to equipment that breaks and needs to be quickly replaced. This type of purchasing for fire stations is generally more expensive than planned purchasing, Lewis said.

A strategic plan may also streamline the process for individual fire stations each applying for grant funding instead of as a unified department.

“They apply for (grants) as single agencies without having a broader view of the whole, and I think if we were to give everybody a broader view of everything … then we would see where best to place our efforts in grants,” Lewis said.

Post said he looks forward to the developments that would be possible with all fire stations under one strategic plan. That would include the ability to apply for larger grants for big-ticket items, such as new trucks.

“I shouldn’t have said it wasn’t a unity meeting because, I guess, now looking at it, I’m seeing a little bit more that we would be … working at the same goals,” Post said. “Although we seem to be working toward the same goals right now, there’s nothing in writing at this particular moment.”

Published by Emily G. Garcia

Enterprise Reporter at The Red & Black

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