DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — Dawson County is expected to surrender operational control of Fire Station 8 off Monument Road to Pickens County this month, once a new intergovernmental agreement (IGA) is ratified by the two governments.
Under the current IGA, Dawson County has operated the station located in the remote Wildcat Community, parts of which are in both counties. But Dawson County came under heavy criticism from area residents who complained the county was slow to respond when a home on Burnt Mountain Road burned to the ground last November.
During a subsequent town hall meeting angry homeowners grilled Dawson County Manager David Headley and Fire and Emergency Services Chief Danny Thompson about why Fire Station 8 was not notified since they are the closest station to the fire.
Thompson blamed the oversight on the Dawson computer aided dispatch (CAD) system. But he explained that even if the station had been notified, the home could not have been saved because the support volunteers are not certified by the Georgia Firefighters Standards and Training Council to suppress fires. Without that certification their response is limited to laying hose and preparing for the arrival of certified firefighters.
Thompson, who was hired to replace Lanier Swafford in May, said he did not learn right away the support volunteers at Fire Station 8 had been putting out fires against state regulations and that he had been working to rectify the situation.
In December, he directed the volunteers to attend mandatory training provided by Dawson County so they could obtain certification. But 12 of the 13 volunteers refused to obey the order.
Lt. John Tarantini, who supervised Station 8, said he and his men preferred to attend training by Pickens County instead. Thompson said that was unacceptable and would violate the original IGA.
Thompson called Tarantini to his office in order to demote him to support staff but Tarantini resigned and all but one of the volunteers also resigned, leaving the station unmanned.
Since then, Dawson County Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond and Pickens County Chairman Rob Jones along with Thompson and the Pickens County Fire Chief have been meeting to draft a new IGA.
Under the proposed new agreement, Pickens will take over operational control of the station and become responsible for training and equipping the volunteers and providing workers compensation insurance. Pickens also will continue to provide insurance for the building and contents of the station.
Dawson County will transfer title of the fire engine and other contents of the station to Pickens which will insure both the engine and tender. Existing hoses and equipment will remain at the station.
Both counties will continue to utilize the station to provide automatic aid to adjoining areas under the Dawson/Pickens County Automatic Aid Agreement.
Dawson County Board of Commissioners could ratify the agreement at the Jan. 17 meeting.
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