The city council voted 3-to-2 to keep Fayetteville’s Fire Department as is.
It seemed nearly all the 250 people attending the four-hour meeting April 23 were opposed to consolidating the city service with the Fayette County Fire and Emergency Services. The crowd was sometimes extremely vocal in their opposition.
The council chambers were packed to the point that many filled the foyer and spilled over into the area just outside the building where speakers had been set up for the overflow crowd to hear the proceedings. The nearly 250 in attendance were a mix of city residents, business owners, firefighters and their families.
Approximately 40 people took the podium during the public comments portion of the meeting which, by design, consumed the bulk of the proceedings.
Those attending the recent joint meeting with the City Council and Fayette County Commission were told that without consolidation, the city would have what will amount to a zero fund balance after five years.
While accurate on one level, the statement did not take into account that the balance mentioned was the city’s unassigned fund balance and did not include the city’s three-month general fund operating reserve which has been maintained for years.
Data compiled by city staff for the April 23 meeting showed that without consolidation, the city could avoid depleting the unassigned fund balance over five years by securing a 10-year Ga. Municipal Association loan to construct the new fire station on Veterans Parkway in 2016 as the county had proposed, use approximately $1 million in available city impact fees to equip the station and raise the millage rate by .6 mills, an increase of $48.05 for a home valued at $200,000, to hire three new firefighters which would provide coverage at all the city’s fire stations. Residents present at the meeting were quite vocal in their support for such a move, including the tax increase needed to prevent consolidation.
Another issue from the earlier joint meeting held that, in general, city firefighters were not as highly trained as those working on the county payroll.
Responding to that assertion was the city fire department’s medical director, Dr. Christopher Edens, who is board-certified in emergency medicine. Edens was emphatic that city firefighters were no less trained than county firefighters, having a minimum certification as an EMTI (Emergency Medical Technician – Intermediate).
He said city firefighters can start IVs, defibrillate, administer oxygen, establish and maintain an airway and administer some medications.
Beyond that, Edens noted that of the 24 FTEs (full-time equivalents), four of those are paramedics and five others are within 1-2 months of acquiring their paramedic certification.
The bottom line, said Edens, is that “we don’t have an ambulance for (firefighters) to be on even though they are already trained.”
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