City Councilman Hooky Huffman said the issue, which goes to a public vote March 19, isn’t about money, as many dissenters are suggesting.
“It’s about the safety of these people who live in the areas that the existing fire department can’t get to as fast,” he said. “They need protection, too, and this is the best, cheapest option.”
Those opposing the bill, like Canton activist Jeff Brown, are saying the bond, which would install the first of the three proposed fire stations near the Laurel Canyon development, is too expensive for the taxpayers. He also maintains that money for a Laurel Canyon station has already been collected by the city but spent on other things.
“I don’t like the idea of paying for this twice,” said Brown, who is a Canton resident living near downtown.
Huffman, however, has suggested that those opposed to the bill, like Brown, aren’t as concerned about the safety of the Canton citizens living in the areas of the proposed new fire stations: Laurel Canyon, The Bluffs and near Canton Marketplace. He claims this is because those near downtown are closer to the fire department and thus “already safe.”
“The people in town,” Huffman said. “They already have good response time from the fire department because they’re closer. I think they just might not want to pay for it, since it doesn’t affect them as much.”
Brown denies Huffman’s claim that he and those like him might not care enough about the safety of their fellow Canton residents.
“That is not true. We’re all Canton and I think that Laurel Canyon needs a fire station too, but I want the money that originally was set for that to be used.”
“That money,” though, City Councilman Bob Rush said “is gone.”
Rush said the money Brown refers to was collected through a SPLOST fund during Mayor Cecil Pruett’s administration and was, to his knowledge, spent legitimately as the terms of the SPLOST dictated. It just wasn’t spent on fire services.
That being the case, Brown said he wants to see proof that the referendum is the cheapest option.
A town hall meeting will be held to discuss the issue at 5 p.m. Monday at the Laurel Canyon Golf Club.