COVINGTON, Ga. — District 1 County Commissioner Stan Edwards says he wanted to clarify some information regarding the county Public Facilities Authority's delay in approving bond financing for the planned Fire Station 4 in east Newton — including the effect it will have on other stations.
"Without addressing the political tactics used during the (Authority's) meeting Tuesday I will provide some history and perspective relating to station 4’s current disposition and how it impacts the entire county’s safety. Station 8 will be addressed to an extent as well." Edwards said in a prepared release.
He said fire stations located within various districts do not serve those districts only.
"For example, a station in district 4 is out on a call when another emergency arises in district 4. The closest fire station is already out on a call so who responds? The next closest station, probably in another district.
"Our stations and firefighters serve the public safety needs of the entire county. They act in the best interest of the county as a whole – like how the oath I took to be a commissioner requires me to act in the best interest of the county – not just my district.
"On a side note, the recently reopened Station 2, located in District 1, responds to more calls in District 2 than in District 1. I knew that four years ago when I started pushing to have Station 2 re-fitted and reopened. My only goal was to get a public safety gap filled in the heart of Newton County regardless of districts.
"I have voted to approve each carefully vetted expenditure for the new Station 8, located in District 3. That public safety gap will soon be filled and if Station 4 can be built, we as a county would have close to 95% of our citizens within five road miles of a fire station. That is huge for protection of lives and property – not to mention insurance premiums.
"The only problem is the engine/truck cost for Station 8 is rolled into the bonding for Station 4 and approved by the BOC back in 2020. So unfortunately, the fire protection for the north Oxford area (District 3) will have a station but no engine/truck because the (Public Facilities Authority) refused to approve the bond issuance or at a minimum delayed the approval. That is 30 more days that the area will go without adequate fire protection.
"And by the way, based on the BOC approval of this purchase last year, the engine/truck will be delivered in about 30 days with no way to pay for it."
Edwards said the Newton County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved funds and bonding for Station 4 in 2020 after the old station was closed in late 2019.
"Since that time there has been a significant gap in fire protection for the southeastern part of the county."
He said the funding source for the land and building was identified as the 271 Fund — a county fire tax already in use for many years.
"That meant Station 4 land, building, and engine/truck would be at no additional tax to the citizens of the county. The old Station 4 was in District 1 but it was determined that the new Station 4 was placed strategically enough it could place more residents within five road miles of a fire station than the previous Station 4.
"With that in mind, a location was selected, and land purchased in District 5. The public safety need for the entire county was best met by putting the project in another district.
"The gist of my lengthy comments, I suppose, is to point out the continued need for new Fire Station 4 bonding because the safety of the entire county, north Oxford (District 3) and southeastern Newton County (Districts 1 and 5) specifically, depends on it," Edwards said.
District 3 Commissioner Alana Sanders, who was one of the three who voted to delay the bond approval, said in comments on a Facebook page that no one on the board "voted down to stop the fire station."
"The question was asked to the county manager could he find resources that would not cost the taxpayers money (grants, corporations in the area, etc.…) The county manager stated that he needed 30 days. The vote was passed to come back in 30 days.
"The question was also asked would this affect any of the dealings that were put in place for the fire station. It was confirmed that NO business pertaining to the fire station would be affected and we will convene back in 30 days with the information from the county manager.
"Many don't know the fire station is also costing the taxpayers $4.5 million dollars and that is NOT including the purchase of the land and the personnel to operate the station which is nearing $800,000-$900,000 a year."