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Lee considering changes in fire/EMS services

LEESBURG, Ga. -- Lee County Commissioners are expected to vote on a contract during their May 28 meeting that could result in sweeping changes in the way firefighting and emergency medical services are delivered.

The County Commission is studying a proposal by National Fire Services organization to give them a six-month, $48,847 contract to help Commissioners prepare for a review by Insurance Services Offices (ISO).

The review has significant meaning to property owners in Lee County. Insurance rates on property in the county are set according to ISO ratings.

Improving fire protection is a priority for Lee commissioners this year. The commission hopes to improve protection -- and possibly lower insurance costs -- especially in the sparsely populated northern section of the county.

Harold N. "Skip" Starling Jr., president of NFSO, also plans to do an assessment of fire and EMS operations and "assess changes that will improve efficiencies relative to ISO compliance and fiscal responsibility."

Starling told Commissioners Tuesday night that his work, even prior to coming before the board with the contract, shows, "There are changes I would make tomorrow."

Most county commissioners believe the study will propose that the Fire Department and EMS need to be reorganized into one unit.

Perhaps more controversially, that realignment would likely result in the hiring of a public safety director to look over the combined unit.

Interim County Administrator Lynn Taylor said she hopes NFSO of Sylvania results in maximizing ISO points during an upcoming review.

"We'll also ask them to do an assessment of both fire and EMS departments to see where shared services may benefit us," Taylor said.

Taylor has worked with NFSO previously, when the company provided consulting work when Sumter County created a countywide fire department for its unincorporated areas.

The benefit of combining the two separate agencies and crosstraining would be to have additional personnel who are certified as firefighters respond to each fire call.

Starling also indicated that if the contract is approved, he hopes to create a network of volunteers that is trained and certified to assist full-time firefighters.

In other Georgia counties, Starling said the county commission participates to help pay a small monthly stipend and/or finances training for the volunteers. He said volunteers are able to pay into a state retirement program that pays up to $900 a month at the age of 55 after 20 years of service.

Commission Vice Chairman Dennis Roland said during Tuesday's work session that he is reluctant to vote for a consulting study until he is convinced that the commission can afford to make the necessary changes.

"There's no need to pay for a study if we don't have the money to put these changes into place," Roland said.

Meantime, County Commissioners are expected to vote on another contract later this month -- this one designed to find them a permanent county administrator.

Taylor is working on a six-month contract to temporarily fill the gap left by the resignation of Tony Massey. Taylor said she is not interested in the position on a full-time basis.

The University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government has proposed helping the commission advertise the position, investigate the candidates and prepare a list of finalist for a fee of $4,500.

The commission hopes to have the process at the interview stage by August or September.

Commissioners did decide Tuesday night to change the wording of the ad and seek a county manager, not a county administrator. The duties would remain the same.

Comments

DoctorDorite 1 year, 3 months ago

The military found out years ago Para-Medics are not fighters, fighters are not Para-Medics. Who wants to be treated by someone with soot/ashes under there finger nails and smelling of sweat & smoke. When you or a loved one are having a heart attack or attacked by a pit bulldog you don't want too hear from the 911 call center the Para-Medics are out fighting a fire and that you'll just have to wait on a back-up unit to arrive from miles away. If this goes through look for a new public service administrator to be hired to oversee the newly merged Fire Dept./ EMS Service at 100K + per year. You'll soon discover the hard way this is a bad idea but once you jump off the bridge its impossible to turn back.

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joker581 1 year, 3 months ago

1) Military medics are fully integrated into combat units and often perform quite well as combatants. 2) If you are well enough to worry about being treated by someone who smells like he's been working all day then maybe you aren't in bad enough shape to need an ambulance. Anyway, every station has showers that can easily be utilized after a fire. 3) Fire calls that would require EMS personnel to participate are relatively rare, but even if they weren't it wouldn't matter if EMS was assisting at the scene. They already send an ambulance to the scene of every working structure fire and it is out of service until the fire is out. Having the ambulance out on a fire scene is no different than having it on another medical call. If you want to avoid a potential delay in response, push your commisioners to hire more medics and staff more ambulances. 4) Hiring a new "public service administrator" to manage the two services(or one consolidated service) does seem to be a waste though. The head of the department(s) should be able to deal directly with the county administrator without a middleman.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 3 months ago

Have you noticed the weight of some of the EMT's. It's not likely those phauxtasses will be scurrying up a two story ladder.

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UGAMedic101 1 year, 2 months ago

No some of those ....... will be saving yours when you are dieing!

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JAT 1 year, 3 months ago

Let's see now, 2003 or 2004 Mr.Starling did this same survey for $ 8,000.00 and recommended combination, in 2007 Mr. Ours, the county administrator at the time, had another survey done by "The University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government" for $ 15,000.00 with the same result. Both of these surveys were almost word for word and are probably on file somewhere and both were turned down. Now another almost $ 49,000.000 for the same survey? SERIOUSLY

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rock 1 year, 3 months ago

NO one has ever claimed that the Lee county commission is intelligent! 2 surveys say combine and yet they wish to spend 49k of my tax money for yet a third. Is this a we need 3 estimates type of thing. Combining Fire and EMS only make sense for the people of Lee County. The days of specialization are over and have been for a while.

I will bet the duty roster will have people assigned to the ambulance for the shift and then others assigned to the truck companys and rescue and everyone not just performing willy nilly. That way an amublance can be toned out or the truck company can be toned out or both if dispatch deems required, and yet each can help out on scene if required. Fire can perform EMS duties in a multi casualty scene and EMS can help at a fire scene if it escalates. Sounds like a good decision to merge.

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joker581 1 year, 3 months ago

Actually, it's unlikely that it'll be a rotating duty roster, at least with the personnel that are on hand now. The most likely scenario(and the one that makes the most sense) is to just fold EMS into the fire department, cross-train them, and keep them in an EMS role except when they are needed to cover structure fire responses. Specialization is far from being over in this area and it shows, particularly when you look at the local personnel. Fire departments often have numerous EMTs who can barely function as such because they only got the training for the associated pay increase and have bever actually worked as EMTs.

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Thurman 1 year, 3 months ago

Didn't Jacksonville, FL. do this type merger back in the early '70's when the term "Emergency Medical Technician" (EMT) came into existence? Maybe send some of Lee County's people to Jax to observe and learn how to run both departments as a single department.

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chinaberry25 1 year, 3 months ago

Fryartuck, you took the words right out of my mouth. There is one is is getting close to 400 pounds. I would make them pass a physical just like the fire department has to do. Is this what came out of that Savannah trip?

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rosemarie 1 year, 3 months ago

Why don't the people of LEE County stand up and use a little brains. First and formost if I have to call 911 for a medical emergency I want a PARAMEDIC not a FIREMAN.. What you think they are going to do if they get to a structure fire and find a person in the building. LIVE before property, so then the injured has to wait on another rescure vehicle to come to scene???? Remenber they were called to a fire, but what happens when they need medical attention.? I guess they can run with the medical emercency and let the building burn. The Lee County Commissioners should all be replaced. None of them listen to the people that put them in office. Lie to get in and then do the very the opposite they told you they would do. I know mine did....... Lee County citizens stand up and tell your commissioner that to give their cell phones back they don't use them for the citizens best needs anyway......

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