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County gains two new med units
Ambulance 2022
Photo courtesy of Dawson County Fire and Emergency Services.

First responders will soon have two more ambulances to use when responding to medical calls throughout Dawson County. 

The two medical units arrived in the county earlier this week. Fire Station 2 will be hosting a viewing for the new ambulances between 5 and 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 12. The public is invited to attend at the second fire station, which is located at 145 Liberty Drive, adjacent to the Tractor Supply store. 

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E-911 and radio projects

In related news, after almost a year of special purpose local option sales tax collections, the Dawson County Board of Commissioners just approved requests to release requests for proposal on two of its highest-priority infrastructure projects. 

SPLOST VII funds of $3 million will be allocated to the first responder radio system upgrade, while $5.5 million will be given for construction of the new E-911 and Emergency Operations Communications (EOC) building. 

For the radio system initiative, the board chose on July 7 to go with the 700-800 mhz option for coverage. This option, as presented on June 16, would provide for dedicated emergency services radio frequencies and better in-building coverage, among other benefits. 

As for the EOC center, subsequent schematics for that project will be submitted to the county at a future time, and the commissioners will then be able to review those plans. Rough drawings were shared with the board during the June 16 meeting. 

“With everything that’s been presented, the 700-800 mhz band [option] is where we need to be,” said District 4 Commissioner and BOC vice chairman Emory Dooley. “There’s other challenges with the other [options], and it's time to move forward with it.”

Pay per call upped for volunteer firefighters

The BOC also approved an increase in pay for the county’s 19 volunteer firefighters retroactive to July 1, 2022. 

Since 2015, Dawson County volunteer firefighters have been paid per call. Now, their rate of $12.83 will increase to $16 per call for all existing volunteers.

Individuals volunteering who’ve been with Dawson County for a while and received any promotions or longevity increases before 2015 will receive a $3 increase. 

The effective date of July 1 would account for calls volunteers have responded to since the beginning of the month, given that they’re reimbursed for their efforts after the end of every month. 

During the July 7 work session, Dawson County Fire and Emergency Services Chief Danny Thompson shared that the public has “long been served” by volunteer firefighters, with them building multiple of the existing stations between four and five decades ago. 

BOC Chairman Billy Thurmond explained that the pay-per-call structure was started so volunteers wouldn’t be spending their own gas money to respond to calls. 

Thompson added he wasn’t asking for additional funding in his department’s current budget and said the changes could be made by using current funds. 

“My tool for having volunteers is to recruit some of these younger people, get them some training and then turn them into a full-time employee,” Thompson said. “We’ve seen some of that success with this model.” 

Chief Thompson and volunteer firefighter coordinator Cpt. Randy Edwards explained that volunteers get the same equipment and training as paid staff. 

Edwards praised volunteers’ efforts and thanked commissioners for recognizing their hard work.

“There’s kind of an old saying in the fire service,” Thompson said. “A house fire doesn’t know if you’re paid or a volunteer. It just knows that you’re coming to try to put it out.”