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Rincon, county getting close to fire station agreement

POSTED: December 5, 2013 8:23 p.m.

Effingham County will prepare an agreement for the city of Rincon to go over, after Rincon officials stated their case Tuesday for a fire station on Blue Jay Road.


The city bought approximately 60 acres of land at the intersection of Blue Jay and McCall roads, and city officials want to set aside 5 acres with a metal building for a potential fire station. Rincon City Manager Wesley Corbitt said placing a station there will help lower the ISO ratings — which are used in determining fire insurance premiums — for city and county residents in the area.


Corbitt estimated that a large percentage of county residents in Rincon’s fire service district would have their ISO rating go from a 10 to a 4.


“We think it will mean substantial savings to the unincorporated area,” he said.


Corbitt said lowering an ISO from a 5 to a 4 could mean a 9 percent reduction in insurance premiums.


The proposed Blue Jay station is about four miles from Rincon’s station 1. Effingham County has been planning to build a station on Hodgeville Road, in addition to stations planned for the Pineora and Tusculum areas. Rincon leaders are trying to sway the county from building the Hodgeville station and working with the city on the Blue Jay location.


“The Blue Jay station is an excellent location,” Corbitt said. “There doesn’t appear to be any lost coverage with the Blue Jay station.”


Effingham County Fire and Rescue officials, though, questioned the proposed location of the station. Interim fire chief Jack Burnsed said placing a fire station at Blue Jay Road would split coverage for some subdivisions, giving some homes in those developments a lower ISO rating and others a class 10. Burnsed said 79 homes in Belmont Glen could be left at a class 10 rating.


“There is a discrepancy where the five miles runs out,” he said. “I do believe that Hodgeville (station) will benefit more.”


Capt. David Owen commended Rincon for its thinking but also said the site for the Blue Jay station could be better.


“This is not the right location,” he said. “Anything we do with the Blue Jay station is not going to take away from the fact we need a station to cover all of Belmont Glen once it’s built out. We’re still going to need to build two stations. There’s no question a station needs to go in this area. But we need to step back and decide, ‘is this the best location and is this the best way to spend money?’”


Rincon Fire Chief Corey Rahn said the key is to have stations five miles part “from door to door.” Doing so also aids in the volunteer firefighter rosters, and the city and county each rely heavily on volunteer personnel.


Under the proposal, the county would pay $511,700 and get another station, and Rincon would add two firefighters. The city is looking to add two 24-hour firefighters and more daytime firefighters to its ranks.


“We’ll have quicker response time and more engines,” Corbitt said.


Building a Hodgeville station, Corbitt estimated, would cost $400,000. Vehicles and equipment would be another $350,000, and staffing the station would be another $162,000. Operational costs would be about $60,000 a year.


“I believe the county would spend, over 10 years there, $2.982 million,” he said. “That’s $298,000 a year.”


Corbitt also figured the county could save $1.5 million over 10 years. “You could use that to fund other fire stations that you would not have if you did not contract with us.”


“I think it would be fair to say that this is a good thing for the city, or you wouldn’t entertain doing this,” Chairman Wendall Kessler said.


Rahn said the city wouldn’t move into a new Blue Jay station immediately. He estimated it would take three months to get the ISO paperwork completed, and it would take the same amount of time to get the building ready to be a station.


The Blue Jay station also would house an EMS truck, providing the northside of Rincon with EMS coverage. There had been an EMS stationed near 4th Street but it was moved to the Goshen Road Extension Station.


“We would love to see EMS on the northside of Rincon,” Corbitt said.


Kessler reissued his call to consolidate fire service throughout the county.


“Everyone would gain,” he said. “We need to be proactive and start mapping out the whole county.”


County attorney Eric Gotwalt advised that the city and county could enter into a separate agreement concerning the Blue Jay station, outside of the service delivery agreements finalized more than a year ago.


“Let’s work together and save money for the county and get better service,” Corbitt said.

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