Dear Editor: I am sending this as a concerned citizen of Rockdale County. I retired with 35 years in the fire service and have recently been pleased with the direction the Emergency Services Department at Rockdale County was headed.
Director John McNeil is heading the department in the right direction to becoming a more professional, modern and honest department. He is open with his communications, unlike some of the previous administrations, and is very forthright with information. Through my tenure with the fire department I had the opportunity to work with other departments across the nation and have continued doing so since my retirement and have seen what well run departments are like — better attitudes, better morale, better efficiency, etc.
Director McNeil and Chief Scott are moving Rockdale Fire Department in that direction. I am sure that Chief Scott will continue working towards that direction, but I feel he too will miss the guidance that Director McNeil has offered should he be dismissed.
I feel with the elimination of the Emergency Services Department that Rockdale County's animal control, communications, and fire department will suffer. Some examples are:
1 - The current radio system in use in the county is antiquated and the repair technicians have told Director McNeil they have to salvage parts from old radios in order to keep the system used by all agencies, including all emergency services, within Rockdale up and running. They don’t give the system a much longer life expectancy. Within two years the technology is changing so that current radios can no longer be used and a new system will be required. Director McNeil is working on that.
2 - The agency that evaluates fire departments for insurance purposes has stated that Rockdale is in severe danger of losing its Class 4 ISO rating if improvements are not made to the fire department. This loss of the 4 rating will result in the citizens of Rockdale County paying higher insurance rates. Director McNeil is working on that. (NOTE: Some of the commissioners are demanding that the newly built station 9 not be opened in a cost cutting effort. This station opening would definitely help the cause of the fire department's maintaining its current rating.) Slightly higher taxes vs. substantially higher insurance premiums -hmmm.
3 - The animal control shelter is severely undersized and understaffed. Standards for animal control are becoming more strict and current facilities and staffing are not meeting them. Director McNeil is working on that.
Director McNeil has thoughtfully looked at these situations and has done much research into them and initiated a viable solution to improve things here in Rockdale.
I am not sure what the actual motives are for this move but the citizens of Rockdale are the ones who will suffer while some of our politicians will come out looking as if they "saved the world." What a good thing if one is running for re-election.
As said earlier, I am retired from Rockdale County, and living on my retirement with the assistance of my wife's being able to work. The commission chair has stated that it would be difficult to have a tax increase with the current economy — I understand. I would rather see a slight tax increase and the services stay as they are or hopefully even improve, rather than no tax increase and then have to pay higher insurance premiums and have even less service — go figure.
I think this needs some further investigation and I would appreciate anything you could do to keep this in the spotlight so hopefully the commissioners will do what is right for the citizens and not what is good for their re-election.