City, county reach fire agreement

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By Alice Du Pont

The city of Quincy and the Gadsden County Board of Commissioners have struck an agreement for fire service.

The agreement is to continue providing the current fire service under the gap contract for the next 5 months when the fiscal year runs out on Sept. 1.

After that, the service will be evaluated again by the commission.

"I've talked with firefighters in recent months and they have expressed concerns about the city of Quincy and they have offered another option," said Commissioner Gene Morgan.

Volunteer firefighters made a short Power-Point presentation Tuesday night to "clear up" what they felt was a misunderstanding by the board.

The proposal calls for six paid county firefighters to provide countywide coverage. The paid firefighters would be augmented by current volunteers, explained Brian Beasley, Emergency Medical Services director.

"I understand that we wouldn't have a fire station in the next year," Beasely said.

The volunteers could deliver better services covering more miles in the county, according to Beasely, $140,000 cheaper than the current contract. The contract calls for the county to pay the city of Quincy $108,000 per quarter or $435,000 annually for fire service.

"The cost, in my opinion, is too high," Beasely said.

Commission chairman Eugene Lamb questioned why the matter of fire protection has suddenly become a hot topic. Both parties, he said, need to improve.

"It's staff's job to monitor the city. It's our job and it isn't the city's business. If the staff gets complaints about the city, they need to discuss it and they need to monitor them very closely (to make sure they are answering all agreed to calls. Then we will have to make our decision next year," Lamb said.

Beasely said communications are poor between the city of Quincy's fire department and the volunteer fire departments. There have been times, according to Beasely, that city firefighters have shown up on scene when volunteers were unaware.

"If volunteer firefighters have complaints they need to tell us," Lamb said.

"I have an open door policy. If they need to talk to me about something, I'll be more than happy to," said Howard Smith, Quincy's fire chief.

Jack McLean, city manager for Quincy, suggested leaving all agreements the way they are until the next budget meetings.

"Our budget was turned in April 2," Beasely reminded Lamb.

"Yes, but there will be plenty of opportunities to adjust it before a budget is passed," Lamb said.

"I'm looking in the audience and I'm seeing young men out there who look able to fight fires. But we don't have enough volunteers in all sections of the county. I remind you that 46 percent of our workforce works outside the county. I don't believe we're ready right now for a countywide fire service," said Commissioner Doug Croley.