COVINGTON, Ga. – The month-long question about who would provide EMS and fire services to Stanton Springs was answered Tuesday afternoon when the Joint Development Authority of Jasper, Morgan, Newton and Walton Counties elected to let Newton County take the lead in providing the services.
The issue arose after Walton County elected to end its $52,000 payment to Social Circle for its fire department to respond to calls in the unincorporated southeastern part of the county. Part of Stanton Springs and most of the Shire facility lie in that part of the county.
The members decided as a short-term solution to have Newton County Fire Services take the lead in responding to the park, eschewing a proposal that the JDA pay the $52,000 to Social Circle for SCFD to continue providing service to only to Shire.
Gabe Khouli, communications lead for Shire Georgia, said the pharmaceutical giant was fine with whatever decision the JDA made. Shire had previously voiced support for the JDA paying Social Circle.
“We met with officials from Newton County yesterday - Chairman (Marcello) Banes, County Manager Lloyd Kerr, Chief (Michael) Conner and Dave (Bernd), Serra (Hall) and Shane (Short) from Newton and Walton economic development,” he said. “We had a productive meeting, discussed the details of what it will look like for Newton County to provide fire protection and emergency services to the Shire site or have jurisdiction over the Shire site from that standpoint.
“Based on that discussion - we had a really good discussion - we are comfortable with either Newton County or Social Circle providing service. We are comfortable with both; we support both. We understand that you guys, at the JDA and the governments you represent,have your own considerations, so we respectfully defer to you to make the final call for whatever makes sense.”
Banes emphasized that Newton Fire responding to the park would not result in any additional cost to county taxpayers.
“It’s nothing different than what Newton County would be doing anyway,” he said. “We would be responding to the calls anyway so there’s no more cost to the county.
“There’s nothing different except that Newton County will be taking the lead.”
Walton County Chairman Kevin Little said the automatic aid agreements are already in place. He said the Walton County Commission would solidify the agreements at its next meeting.
“We’ve already have automatic and mutual aid with Newton County. We’ve added it to the agenda for next Tuesday night just to solidify what Marcello and Shire discussed yesterday,” he said.“I’ve polled my board members and they’re perfectly fine with Newton County and we’re basically just going to solidify it next Tuesday."
Banes added, "Our Board is actually going to vote on it and we’re all in favor of it. We’ll vote on it at our next board meeting which is Dec. 4.”
Authority members also formed a committee consisting of the four elected members of the JDA plus anybody they designate to continue to look for longer term solutions for providing the services.