After ‘fire bond’ failure, council mulls next move
by Joshua Sharpe
jsharpe@cherokeetribune.com
March 22, 2013 12:00 AM | 1745 views | 1 1 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mayor Gene Hobgood talks during a meeting.  Three days after the much-discussed “fire bond” was struck down by Canton voters in a more than 2-to-1 defeat, the debate rages on, with community leaders regrouping to find another way to remedy the city’s need for additional fire stations. <br>Staff/file
Mayor Gene Hobgood talks during a meeting. Three days after the much-discussed “fire bond” was struck down by Canton voters in a more than 2-to-1 defeat, the debate rages on, with community leaders regrouping to find another way to remedy the city’s need for additional fire stations.
Staff/file
slideshow
CANTON — Three days after the much-discussed “fire bond” was struck down by Canton voters in a more than 2-to-1 defeat, the debate rages on, with community leaders regrouping to find another way to remedy the city’s need for additional fire stations.

The “fire bond,” as it became known early on, was a $6 million bond referendum proposed by the Canton City Council to fund construction of three new fire stations in the city. The stations were to be built in Laurel Canyon, The Bluffs and near Canton Marketplace. It failed in a public vote Tuesday, 518-213.

All six City Council members and Mayor Gene Hobgood agree that there is a need for new stations to service these newer, more recently developed areas on the outskirts of the city, but now that the bond has failed, very different ideas are emerging on how to get them.

Councilman Hooky Huffman said before the council’s meeting Thursday that there would likely be a vote to approve construction on a station at Laurel Canyon as soon as possible.

“We already have the truck and the land,” he said. “All we need is the building.”

To have this station fully operational, Huffman said, a tax increase would be likely for Canton residents, though he couldn’t say how much.

But, the councilman pointed out, “We haven’t had a tax increase in three or four years and the majority of municipalities have. Basically, the citizens of Canton have been getting a discount and now they’re going to have to pay.”

Should this station be built, it has been suggested by Cherokee County that it will not go through with its plans to rebuild a station on Highway 140, Huffman said.

Communities like Laurel Canyon, further away from the existing Canton fire stations, are serviced by both the city of Canton and Cherokee County fire stations.

This is part of a mutual aid agreement written in 2007 in which the county responds to fire calls in Canton, Huffman said. In turn, Canton responds to calls in some areas of Cherokee County.

This agreement, which Huffman said is written to automatically renew each January, has had some citizens and city officials suggesting a full merger with the county’s fire department for some time.

Conflicting views of history emerge as to whether or not the council ever truly considered this merger.

Huffman and Councilman Glen Cummins, the sole city council member to speak out against the bond, agree that there was some talk in mid-2012 on the subject.

Cummins said prior to Thursday’s council meeting that other council members failed to cooperate with county officials during the brief talks.

Huffman acknowledges that the talks were brief but maintains that he is open to talking about consolidation with the county.

“I just want them to bring something (a proposal),” he said. “What are they going to charge?”

Another option, Huffman said, is funding the fire district which was previously created to address the problem of fire services in Canton.

That option though has already caused controversy in the city, primarily with citizens 62 and older.

“The thing about the fire district is it would cost less for some of the citizens and more for some others. There are no exemptions. Even seniors who have tax exemptions would have to pay,” he warned.

Canton seniors, Huffman said, have for the most part been resistant to losing their exemptions. Other citizens also expressed concern about the cost of the fire district, the same citizens, Huffman said, who railed against the bond referendum.

“You can’t win,” he said. “I don’t think we (city officials) know where or how we want to go.”
Comments
(1)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Delta Grand
|
March 22, 2013
How can these people call themselves community leaders, if they do not represent the will of their constituents. City of Canton and residents of Clayton Community DO NOT want any new fire stations, trucks or land dealing with fire stations. Sounds like these leaders need to sell the truck and land they obviously purchased without asking the citizens first. Now they want to just have a tax increase! This county is messed up, if these so called leaders, build these structures without the consent and will of the citizens of Canton and Cherokee County. We the people are tired of these usurpation. These leaders need to quit turning this place into Gwinnett County. Gwinnett is a sewerage hole, Cherokee ain't there yet, but seems like we are as they fund city projects, without the consent of the citizens or the will of their constituents. Bastards.
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, spam, and links to outside websites will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides