Officials in both Dawson and Pickens counties are currently working on a re-write of an intergovernmental agreement that was ratified in 2008 and outlined the construction, operation and management of Fire Station No. 8, which is located off Monument Road in Dawson County.
The intergovernmental agreement, or IGA, was disrupted earlier this month when 12 volunteer support staff assigned to the station resigned after refusing to attend a Dawson County training session.
The IGA established, among other stipulations, that Pickens County would build the station to service the Wildcat Community while Dawson County would provide equipment and assume operation of the station, including training of the volunteers. Dawson officials took the volunteers’ refusal to attend the Dec. 4 training, as well as their insistence that they would attend a Pickens County training instead, as a violation of the IGA.
With the fate of the station hanging in the balance, Dawson County Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond and Pickens County Commission Chairman Rob Jones met on Dec. 12 to discuss the discrepancies with the IGA and the operation of Station 8.
According to a release from Pickens County Public Information Officer Tucker Green, the chairmen both agreed that the most crucial aspect is providing adequate fire protection for citizens in both counties.
The release, dated Dec. 12, states that the two spoke on behalf of their respective boards and “tentatively agreed to work together to solve these discrepancies and guarantee proper service” to the Burnt Mountain area.
“Chairman Jones believes the meeting was in good faith from both sides and is appreciative for Chairman Thurmond’s willingness to build constructively on the partnership between both counties,” the release reads. “Chairman Jones is optimistic in the direction this situation has taken and believes the result will be beneficial to all involved.”
Thurmond too said on Monday that he believes a resolution is in the works that should be positive for both counties. He confirmed that both counties are working on a new IGA.
“Once we get that up and done and commissioners on each side have had a chance to look at it we’ll issue a joint statement from each county commission,” Thurmond said.
Thurmond said he anticipates the draft will be completed within a week or so, and once the commissioners and emergency services staff have looked it over, it will be put up for a vote by each commission.
In the meantime, Dawson County has promised not to abandon the previous IGA and continues to provide emergency services to the Wildcat Community. A Dec. 10 statement from the county manager reads that “measures have been put in place to ensure adequate service now and into the future.”
Issues with the volunteers arose in November when a house off Burnt Mountain Road was destroyed by fire and the station was not called out to assist. Dawson County Emergency Services Director Danny Thompson acknowledged that an issue with the county’s computer aided dispatch system was to blame, but stated that it would not have mattered if the station was dispatched because the support staff was not authorized to fight fire.
Due to their status as support staff, the volunteers are only authorized to lay hose and prep for firefighters to arrive.
Thompson said he became aware that the volunteers had been fighting fire over the summer after a car fire on Monument Road, where some of the same Dawson County volunteers responded wearing street clothes to put the flames out. A complaint from other personnel about policy violations sparked a discussion about the role of the volunteers up at Station 8, and Thompson facilitated training and gear for as many of the volunteers who wanted to train to become certified to fight live fire.
Thompson scheduled the Dec. 4 training to start the process, but the volunteers who signed up backed out.