Councilman not willing to give away fire services
April 18, 2013 09:18 PM | 2677 views | 11 11 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print

If the city does not provide superior services then why should it exist at all? The current debate over the county’s proposal to take over Canton’s fire department boils down to the age old question of cost versus quality.

Last week County Manager Jerry Cooper made the statement, “This will save the Canton taxpayers millions.” That is true. It is also true that we could, “Save Cherokee County taxpayers millions” by selling the expensive new office building and moving the county offices into trailers.

Both statements carry the same amount of ridiculousness and superficial short-term thinking.

Have you read the county’s proposal? Have you compared what they are offering to what we currently have? Why do you think they so desperately want Canton’s fire department? Remember the Bobo Boondoggle?

The proposal states that the goal will be an average response time of under eight minutes. Canton’s consistently proven response time is less than five minutes and is usually closer to four minutes.

The myth that the county will somehow pay for the new fire stations is exposed. Canton’s SPLOST funds will pay for the new stations as stated in the proposal.

There is no guarantee that the downtown station will remain open.

There is no mention of the Bluffs station whatsoever.

Part of the proposal includes Canton giving away it’s $4 million worth of fire equipment along with a two-year cancellation clause. Yes, they want us to hand over every dime’s worth of taxpayer paid-for assets and to agree that they could simply cancel all fire protection for the city with a two-year notice.

They clearly state that Canton’s hard earned ISO rating of 4 could be diminished to their inferior rating of 5/9. It is stated that Canton’s superior equipment will be spread throughout the county.

The hot potato of the senior exemption would remain Canton’s problem to deal with even though the city would be completely out of the fire business.

The county will simply bill the city once a year for 3.394 mils of our total tax digest; and that is just the first year. Most years the county raises taxes — most years the city does not.

Yes, we do pay a premium to live in the city and we receive superior services for our money. Last year when a small and short lived movement was started to dissolve the city, we discovered that the total premium cost to be a city resident was about $150 a year per $100,000 of property value. If the city does not provide superior services then why should it exist at all?

Cherokee County has a very good county fire service. However, fire protection in the large, spread out Cherokee County is vastly different than fire protection in the tightly, compact city of Canton.

I will not be a participant in the diminishment of Canton‘s obligation to protect its citizens to the highest possible level.

Giving away the fire department would not only be a step backward in life/safety, it would also be a step forward in the reduction of our city to that of the county’s lowest common denominator.

Bill Bryan

Canton City Council member

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Harry Johnston
April 19, 2013
First, let me say the county isn't trying to force fire consolidation. We believe it's the most economical way for Canton to address its need to expand its fire department, and it benefits unincorporated citizens as well. But it's the city's decision, not ours. And we respect that.

Now let me address some of Councilman Bryan's comments....

Mr. Bryan says the city is being asked to "give away" its fire equipment. That makes for a good sound bite, but think about it for a minute.... Currently, city residents have paid for the assets needed to provide their fire service, and unincorporated residents have paid for theirs. If both groups contribute their fire assets to the merged service,that equitable position is maintained. But if unincorporated citizens have to buy Canton's fire assets, they'll have borne all the cost of fire equipment, including that used for Canton, and Canton citizens won't have paid for any. That's clearly inequitable, and we can't ask unincorporated citizens to double-pay like that.

I believe the county could justify paying for equipment that exceeds Canton's current actual needs, specifically its second ladder truck, with the proceeds used to honor current senior tax exemptions on a "grandfathered" basis. We'd have to address some legal complications with that, but I believe it can be done.

Mr. Bryan states that Canton would pay for the new stations in the Laurel Canyon/Great Sky and Canton Market Place areas. There's an element of truth in that statement, but it's not fully accurate. The county proposes to use a site in Laurel Canyon owned by the city, and $500,000 of SPLOST funds approved by the voters for Canton fire improvements. The county would pay at least $1.5 million for the remaining cost of these stations, using funds already earmarked for replacement of nearby county stations.

In a merged service, the county will build a station in the Bluffs area when it's needed. At that point there would be sufficient tax base in the area to support it.

It's true that Canton's ISO rating of 4 is better than the county's 5 (in areas that have water service). But we believe the county's rating will improve to 4 after the opening of the new fire training center later this year. I would not expect the merger to be completed unless & until that happens.

Some City Council members have stated that their plan to build three new stations would likely result in a still better ISO rating of 3. I submit that the county could also achieve a 3 rating with a comparable 150% increase in its fire system. Of course, the cost would be exorbitant, as it would be for Canton.

Except to offset the effect of declining property values over the last few years, the county hasn't raise the fire tax rate since 2006, when we expanded staffing to a minimum of two firefighters per truck.


Harry Johnston

Cherokee County Commisioner - Dist 1
Bill Bryan
April 21, 2013
I stand behind every statement I made. Harry and I have some honest differences of opinion on this matter. We are both doing our jobs representing the taxpayers best interests that we are obligated to represent. Harry is a good man, I actively supported him last election and if he chooses to seek re-election I will support him again.
This and That
April 19, 2013
Just look at last year’s analysis of the Canterbury Ridge Apartment Fire which is in Canton’s jurisdiction:

Number of Engine Companies:

Cherokee County Fire and ES – 13

Canton Fire Dept - 2

Woodstock Fire Dept - 1

Number of Ambulances

Cherokee County Fire and ES - 6


Cherokee County Fire and ES - 46

Woodstock - 9

Canton - 6

Cherokee County Fire and ES is already doing a lot for the citizens of Canton.
This and That
April 19, 2013
Mr. Bryan,

You stated "Cherokee County has a very good county fire service. However, fire protection in the large, spread out Cherokee County is vastly different than fire protection in the tightly, compact city of Canton." This is very true, however, you state that the response times are different. Cherokee County Fire is responsible for 434 square miles of territory and Canton FD is responsible for 14 square miles. That is a BIG difference.

By the way, didn't Canton lose 3 historic buildings to fire in 2009 and the fire department was just a few feet away?

Real fireman
April 19, 2013
You are so misleading or misguided. The city department has subpar medical training. Most of your fire employees are only first responders compared to the county which has a minimum requirement of EMT. Your fire engines only have 300 gallon tanks; the county trucks have 750 to 1000 gallon tanks. You have no personnel to fight a common house fire without county assistance. The citizens of Canton are citizens of Cherokee county. They want the "best" possible option, not a department facing cuts and trying to hold on. Oh, and by the way, you have your own "boondoggle"; the reservoir! Not to mention the embarrassing makeup of the city government." Let's cut out the mayor's power so we don't have any accountability"! That's the Canton City Council for you.
Bill Bryan
April 21, 2013
It is your right to personally attack me all you want. It is irrelevant to the issue and only diminishes your argument. At 2:00 AM last Saturday there was a house fire in Brooke Park in unincorporated Cherokee County. Canton had two pumpers on the scene and was pulling hose before the first county vehicle arrived. This is an example of how the two departments work together. People like you spreading lies only damages the excellent working relationship between these two outstanding departments.

Here are the factual answers to your inaccurate portrayal of Canton's Fire Department. Your statements are in quotes.

"The city department has subpar medical training. Most of your fire employees are only first responders compared to the county which has a minimum requirement of EMT."

Out of the 21 Firefighter’s the city has on assigned to shift, we have 3 Paramedics, 15 EMTs and 3 First Responders. The three First Responder have combined experience of over 80 years. The City of Canton is a licensed by the State of Georgia as a Basic Life Support Department, thus at no time will an engine respond without at a minimum of an EMT on board.

"Your fire engines only have 300 gallon tanks; the county trucks have 750 to 1000 gallon tanks"

The cities fire engines carry 400 gallons of water. This meets all requirements for NFPA, the State of Georgia and ISO at the time the trucks were ordered. Fire hydrants are required to be installed every 1000 feet within the city, thus allowing a positive water supply for fire suppression.

"You have no personnel to fight a common house fire without county assistance"

The city has 7 firefighters assigned to each shift (3 at one station and 4 at the other). The minimum number of firefighters recommended to make an interior attack is 4 firefighters. Furthermore; the majority of the administrative staff is Certified Firefighters that also respond to call, the city also has off duty firefighters that live in and near Canton that respond to structure fires if needed, thus increasing the total number of firefighters on the scene.

"The citizens of Canton are citizens of Cherokee county. They want the "best" possible option, not a department facing cuts and trying to hold on"

The Insurance Service Office (ISO) reviews each community’s firefighting capabilities and assigns a Public Protection Classification from 1 to 10. Class 1 represents exemplary fire protection while 10 indicates the the area’s fire suppression program does not meet ISO’s minimum criteria. The City of Canton has a protection class 4 while Cherokee County has a protection class of 5/9. Per ISO “On average, communities with superior fire-protection services — and therefore good Public Protection Classifications — have lower fire losses than communities whose fire-protection services are not as comprehensive”.

This and That
April 22, 2013
It is my understanding that the minimum for Cherokee County firefighters is to be an EMT. The remainder are paramedics. I was recently informed that out of the 300 firefighters that Cherokee County has, nearly 50% of them are paramedics. This would also mean that there are paramedics and EMTs on the fire trucks, too, and not just the ambulances. I would call this exceptional medical treatment. If you (Canton) had a multiple car accident, your city staff would be limited in the care of the injured. In regards to Canton FD getting to the fire at Brooke Park quicker than Cherokee County, I would certainly hope so. Station 16 is the closest fire station to that location. I believe Station 9 (Cherokee County) would have been the closest to the Brooke Park Fire and that station is about twice as far as Canton’s FD. Now this is what I call spin, when you try to compare the time and one station is twice as far as Canton FD.
April 22, 2013
Real fireman, I agree with you. Bill Bryan is the king of spin. He can bend any information to support his position. We just have to stay on him.
April 19, 2013
To obtain an ISO Class 3 with a combination department of paid and volunteer firefighters is a rewarding task. In the nation only 3.6% of fire departments are an ISO Class 3 and within the State of Georgia only 4.4% of fire departments are an ISO Class 3."

How much do we have to spend to do this? If the county will have a rating of 4 when we merge, will it not be same for same? Also, what about actual paramedics on every truck dispatched?
April 20, 2013
There are paramedics on almost every single truck in Cherokee County. They are ACTUAL Paramedics. This means they provide Advanced Life Support which is basicly everything that an emergency room can perform. If a Canton truck only has first responders, they can only perform basic skills while awaiting a Cherokee County truck to arrive on EMS calls which account for a great percentage of the call volume. Also, residing in Great Sky, I am in the city limits of Canton and I pay city taxes. But every time I have seen fire trucks responding to calls in my neighborhood, it has been Cherokee County trucks. Most notably Engine 9 I believe and one of their ambulances. This means the city truck would have to drive past a county station to respond to my residence. 4 minute response? I doubt that!
April 18, 2013
Mr. Bryan is so out of touch with his constituents. The poll on this very website was clear. 85% of citizens were in favor of consolidation with Cherokee County Fire. The special election showed the same. It's true. You can't teach an old dog anything. Even if it's so blatantly obvious to everyone else, and especially if the old dog won't listen to anyone.
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