August 16, 2012 10:10:53 AM
District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks Wednesday informed the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors of issues a committee will examine when conducting a comprehensive assessment of Lowndes County volunteer fire services.
Brooks noted the comprehensive study will "assess the efficiency and effectiveness of the county-wide volunteer fire services and seek ways to improve" services.
Specifically, the committee, which has yet to be formed, will examine the county's legal authority in a statutory creation of volunteer fire services in the state, a contractual agreement with the county, duties and responsibilities of volunteer firemen and mutual-aid agreements.
The committee also will examine the organizational structure of volunteer fire districts and the duties of the Lowndes County Fire Coordinator, Sammy Fondren.
The committee also will look into logistical issues, such as the number of volunteer fire department stations, their locations, equipment and staffing, response time and level of effectiveness and communications.
Other topics of investigation include, personnel effectiveness, financial support for county fire services, fire prevention programs and future issues affecting county-wide fire services, such as county population growth and development and the possibility of paid fire fighters.
"Forming a committee is the next step," Brooks told the supervisors.
The committee will consult with personnel at the state Fire Marshal's office, local fire departments and other volunteer departments throughout the state.
The committee also will review current literature and studies of volunteer fire departments, as well as randomly distribute a questionnaire to local volunteer firemen to get input on identifiable problems within volunteer fire services.
Brooks suggested forming the committee during the July 31 meeting of the Board of Supervisors, when Board President and District 1 Supervisor Harry Sanders' proposal to consider consolidating city and county emergency services fell flat.
Brooks was opposed to consolidating services.
In other matters:
"I see the number of citizens from Columbus who shop in Tuscaloosa, (Ala.)," he said. "We're losing tax dollars and jeopardizing citizens' safety when they have to go 60 miles to shop. It's almost laughable, at this point, we have the same shopping opportunities as when I was in high school, essentially."
Lee suggested a "mall for the entire Golden Triangle, accessible to everyone."
"We need to think of ourselves as the Golden Triangle and promote ourselves as the Golden Triangle," he said.
Lee also gave his thoughts on consolidating city and county services.
"In government service, we need to be mindful we are not king-makers," he said. "In public service, consolidation isn't always the best thing. We're taking people's jobs when we consolidate. When we put all our decision-making power in one person's hands, we are abdicating our responsibility as elected officials."
County Administrator Ralph Billingsley reported six people -- Jean Bigelow, Jim Dierking, Leon Ellis, Cathy Howell, Fred Kinder and Keith Worshaim -- applied for the board position recently vacated with the resignation of George Swales.
The supervisors took the applications under advisement and will appoint Swales' replacement during their Sept. 14 meeting.
"We have a whole month we can go and interview (the applicants)," Sanders told the supervisors. "I don't think we need to bring each before the board (in a public meeting)."
"Everyone has the option to nominate (an appointment), then we vote," Brooks said, motioning the CVB appointment be made by nomination.
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