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City, county still debating over new fire contract

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By Alice Du Pont

There is still no fire contract between Gadsden County and the city of Quincy beyond March and Tuesday night, during the regular meeting of the city commissioners, two officials made it clear that if there is no contract they don't want the fire engines to roll beyond the stipulated 5-mile radius.

City commissioners Derrick Elias and Keith Dowdell said they want to sit down at a joint meeting with the county to discuss the fire contract. The city is still operating under the previous contract, which expired in December 2008 and calls for the county to pay about $438,000 per year to the city to be first responder to fires within 5 miles of the fire station and as a backup to volunteer departments further out in the county.

A new contract sent from the county makes the city first responder throughout the county with no increase in compensation. The county is not opposed to holding a joint meeting but would like for county and city staff to meet first to discuss commissioners’ concerns.

A meeting has been set for the week of Feb. 9, but that's not enough for Elias, who says he still wants a joint meeting, although he never elaborated on why there is a need for a joint meeting or what his concerns are.

Elias also commented that "there is a notion" that the county and city don't get along. But Mayor Andy Gay and City Manager Jack McLean said all their conversations with the county have been amicable.

"I talked to the chairman (of the Gadsden County Commissioners) and he said they would sit down in a joint meeting after staff has met. I don't want a war. I would like for all of us to sit down and talk about things," Gay said.

"Before the county commission wanted to meet, they requested the city and county staff members meet and identify the primary concerns by coming up with a list of suggestions to be passed on to the two commissions. Information will be passed on to both commissions," McLean said.

In other business, commissioners heard a presentation from Harry Reeves, executive director of the Capital Region Transportation Planning Agency outlining the new direction of the agency. The previous long range plans, he said, were three-pronged.

"We've consolidated the plan to include the long-range transportation plan, the bicycle and pedestrian master plan and the transit development plan. It will be called the Regional Mobility Plan and will focus on moving people and goods, not autos," Reeves said.

The plan will also focus on "complete streets" designed to provide access and mobility to all users by identifying needs by corridors and look beyond the 20-year plan to the 50-year plan.

"It's about what you want your city to look like in 50 years," Reeves said.

Gay was interested in a project that is a little more immediate: the downtown Quincy bypass. The bypass would route large trucks out of the city to mitigate the noise pollution and save wear and tear on downtown streets. Another concern is that an accident with the many trucks carrying gasoline and hazardous materials could cause a catastrophe downtown if a truck overturned or collided with another vehicle.

But the bypass, which was in the Florida Department of Transportation's plan, was taken out of that plan in favor of other projects in Leon County. Reeves said he is working to get the bypass back into the plan.

Changes in the plan require a majority vote of the members of CRPTPA and Leon County has more than twice the number of votes as Gadsden County.

Finally, Theresa Moore, finance director, informed commissioners that the $500,000 loan they approved from Capital City Bank in 2007 has been paid in full.