September 16, 2013 9:26:52 AM
Nathan Gregory - firstname.lastname@example.org
The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors authorized county fire services coordinator Sammy Fondren to explore a co-op with volunteer fire departments in eastern Oktibbeha and Clay counties that would provide fire services in Mayhew.
An adjoining county agreement would mean faster response times because the area is closer to stations on the other side of the county line. This would have an impact on 14 residences and three businesses in Mayhew, Fondren said. It would also provide quicker responses to the East Mississippi Community College Golden Triangle campus.
Supervisor approval during Friday's meeting allows Fondren to speak with supervisors in those counties and boards for east Oktibbeha's department as well as the department in the Tibbee community of Clay County.
"Currently where (EMCC, residents and businesses are) sitting, they're so far out in the west side of the county that they are actually further away from our closest fire station than the adjoining county fire stations," Fondren said. "The West Lowndes station to Mayhew is eight-and-a-half miles. The industrial park to Mayhew is six miles, and our Artesia station in District 5 is between seven and seven-and-a-half miles. Tibbee to Mayhew is four miles."
Fondren said he received a letter of support from EMMC-GT vice president Paul Miller regarding the arrangement.
"This would be a move in the right direction to give them an improved fire service," Fondren said. "We would still provide fire service but we would be a secondary coming in with either East Oktibbeha or Tibbee being the primary dispatch fire service."
Portions of the areas those departments serve have Class 10 ratings from the Mississippi State Rating Bureau -- the weakest rating the bureau gives -- while some have Class 8 ratings, depending on the area. The possibility exists that some areas recognized as Class 10 would be upgraded to an 8 in the co-op scenario, Fondren said.
Oktibbeha County fire services coordinator Kirk Rosenhan said eastern fire departments in his jurisdiction already respond to fires in Mayhew on a mutual aid basis. An agreement would mean slightly more funding for fire protection services in his county, he said.
"The interest that we have certainly is to provide better fire protection and rescue to the western Lowndes and eastern Oktibbeha area," Rosenhan said. "This would make it official, legal and economical."
He added that the east Oktibbeha's three stations collectively cover just under 40 percent of the entire county's population and is the most active of the departments there. Rosenhan said he has not approached Oktibbeha County supervisors about the agreement but has spoken with county administrator Don Posey about doing so.
In other board action on Friday, supervisors:
■ Rejected all nine bids for renovating the spec building soon to house Cal-Star Products. Based on a finding that all bids for the project were above the $3.4-$3.7 million estimated cost, supervisors will re-advertise for services. Board President Harry Sanders said a special meeting may have to be called next month to approve a contractor. JBHM Architects is the project's engineer.
■ Hired two road department employees for county litter control. Each person will begin at a $12-per-hour pay rate during their first six months on the job;
■ Accepted two private roads -- Whippoorwill Drive and Mockingbird Lane -- as county roads. Each of those roads are in District 1 and are paved;
■ Approved $10,000 in projects-of-local-nature funding for debris hauling on Lindsey Ferry Road;
■ Officially closed a similar project on Hughes Road and added surplus funds back into the PLN account the county has with Tombigbee River Valley Water Management District;
■ Accepted real and personal tax rolls for 2013.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.