Auburn, Olmstead chiefs discontent

Last updated: January 16. 2014 12:54PM - 1068 Views
By - ccooper@newsdemocratleader.com

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Now that all questions have been answered, Russellville’s Rural Fire Department will be keeping the $30,000 contribution made by fiscal court for the Corinth substation project.

The contribution was temporarily put on hold after magistrate Jo Orange summoned rural fire chief Cheryl Allen to come back to the court and answer more questions she had concerning the project. After speaking to Auburn Rural Fire Chief Jim Kutzman, Orange was concerned if there would be enough equipment and manpower to run the new station.

Russellville Rural operates out of their main station located on the 68-80 Bypass. The department has been working on building a substation on Hwy. 100, near the airport, to help provide additional fire protection to an area that is 10 miles from the nearest fire station. The new addition will also bring about an insurance savings for homeowners who live within a five mile radius of the new substation.

Allen obliged Orange coming to Tuesday’s meeting bringing with her about a dozen or so of her fellow firefighters. Other rural fire departments made appearances as well including Auburn, Lewisburg and Olmstead fire chiefs.

One of the questions included ISO ratings. An ISO rating is used by insurance companies to define the risk factors of property, like the distance from a house to the nearest fire hydrant or fire station. The farther away you are, the more damage could be done in the event of a fire. The lower the ISO rating (1-10), within five miles of a station, the lower insurance premiums are for residents.

Allen told magistrates the substation would most likely carry an 8-9 ISO automatically, but was hopeful the department would be able to lower that rating eventually. More tests will need to be done to bring along the Bypass station’s ISO rating of a 7.

Orange asked Allen about the volume of firefighters who could respond to the substation, and if there would be enough equipment placed in the new station to meet ISO regulation. Allen assured Orange there would be.

“I have two firefighters who live on Hwy. 100 now. One is at the front door of the substation,” said Allen, adding she herself was only a few miles from it.

Both rural fire chiefs Dan Kemp of Olmstead, and Jim Kutzman of Auburn, spoke at the meeting noting their departments have never come to court asking for money, and have paid for all of their projects on their own or by applying for grants.

The RRFD has already collected $120,000 of the $150,000 price tag to build the new substation. They have received a grant, as well as performed numerous fundraising event,s said Allen.

Kutzman, who was mentioned at a previous meeting as talking to magistrate Orange about the substation, said he wasn’t against the project, but is definitely concerned about the new station crossing over into his department’s boundaries.

“We were the first rural department to build a substation. We did not come to fiscal court asking for money,” said Kutzman. “Our substation is also within our fire district. The one on Hwy. 100 will reach into our area.”

Kutzman said he didn’t want his membership to be affected by paying dues to the wrong department. Allen assured the Auburn chief she would never intentionally try to take his membership, but did say if someone needed help with putting out a fire they would be there.

Rural fire departments rely on membership dues from those in their fire districts to balance their budgets. They also receive $30,000 each from the county annually and $8,000 from the state. Kemp asked Allen why she couldn’t fund the $30,000 to finish the project.

Allen answered, saying she couldn’t quote it line for line right then, but assured the money her department receives was very well spent.

Kemp, who has served as fire chief for Olmstead for years, told the court he didn’t think there were enough “runs” to substantiate a substation being built on Hwy. 100. He also mentioned that his department bought a new brush truck recently with money they had saved up for years to buy, and did not come to the county to ask for a dime. Kemp also had concern about Russellville Rural sharing equipment and trucks between two stations.

“This will affect us too. We will only get one truck instead of two if we need help,” said Kemp.

Allen responded to Kemp saying, “Russellville Rural has always helped out Olmstead, and we always will. Nothing will change. We have enough equipment for both stations.”

Local attorney Joe Hendricks took the podium and spoke on behalf of his parents Joe and Cathie Hendricks, who live on Hwy. 100. He described the area the substation was being built as a “hole needing to be filled.” When he was a child Hendricks said his house burned down because it was so far from any fire station.

“We fully support the funding for the Corinth Substation,” said Hendricks. “This area has been under-served for many, many years. It is time that this community have a substation that is reasonably close to a large number of people.”

Hendricks added he was concerned that after a lengthy period of preparation and planning, and after the court previously approved funding for the project, last minute road blocks were being thrown up.

“I don’t know if we have road blocks,” said Orange to Hendricks. “I think they need more firefighters. Are you willing to be a firefighter?”

Hendricks told Orange that Allen had answered that question, that indeed there were enough.

Orange mentioned she wondered if the county should get involved in looking where substations should go before building them. Allen assured Orange the site selected for the substation was looked into thoroughly before a decision was made to place it there.

“This substation will not only serve an area that has a need for additional protection, but also it will be close to the airport and a possible elementary school someday,” said Allen. “I’m discouraged to hear my fellow firefighter’s opposition to the county helping. I don’t think it’s right for me to get kicked in the face for coming to the county and asking for help just because the other departments don’t. This is for all of Logan County. I don’t believe in boundaries. We all are supposed to work together to help everyone. Russellville Rural has visions and goals to grow for the benefit of all.”

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