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Public Safety Committee discusses fire service issues Print E-mail
Written by Mallory D. Biering   

At the Tuesday, August 3rd Bamberg County Public Safety Committee meeting, it was determined, by the Bamberg County lawyers, that according to the fire service contract, "Colston [Fire Department] cannot require real estate or operate a substation, within another fire district, without redefining the Colston Fire District to include the real estate housing the proposed Rivers Bridge Substation." It was also noted this acquisition would, "require county council approval."

The spokesperson for the county attorney also noted, "It is the position of the county attorney that the arrangement that Colston rural district has received a deed to a parcel of real estate without the consent or approval of county council. This arrangement is inappropriate and violates both South Carolina law and the Bamberg County Ordinance. Bamberg County Council must approve any acquisition of new real estate by any fire district."

Bamberg County Administrator Joey Preston explained, "Colston had property gifted to them, and that is a violation of the ordinance. It would not be a violation of the ordinance if county council redrew the lines." Preston was referring to the Bamberg County Ordinance 5-02-2, which is dated February 4, 2002, which grants exclusivity to each fire district.

Along with discussing the possibility of asking county council to redraw the fire district lines, how the planned Rivers Bridge Substation would affect the ISO rating for the entire county was also discussed.

Members of the Rivers Bridge Community and other fire departments were present for the meeting. Gordon Walling, one such resident of the community, explained citizens living in the area collectively pay over $10,000 a year for insurance. Walling said, "We just happen to be in that one area where we are not able to get a break. We ask that the fire board and the public safety committee to keep us in mind."

In the past few months a lot of confusion has occurred on how to properly go about establishing this substation. Brenna Hancock, Bamberg County Fire Coordinator, was told the substation was a matter of paperwork. However, since July 1st, the ISO rules and regulations have changed, which may or may not help the county maintain the current ISO rating.

According to Hancock, "If we add a substation or add any type of major change to our fire service right now [ISO] would have to re-evaluate us as a whole, which could jeopardize our county wide six."

It was also noted the plan for reevaluating counties will change from every 10 or 15 years to every five years. Before the next five years, something will have to be done about the Rivers Bridge Substation, but it is up to county council as to when anything happens.

Bamberg County Councilman Trent Kinard asked Hancock what would be needed for the new substation, and he was told, "much more equipment than we can afford at this time."

Clear Pond Fire Chief Scott Brown explained the fire advisory board does want a station, however they want it built in the correct process and deeded to the county.

"I know the money situation is tight, but a lot of us have given a lot of time and dedication." said Brown.

Kinard said county council supports the fire service, and they as well would like to see the improvements, but also said, "The county is broke, and continued saying, "I think the fire departments and all the chiefs together have the best interest of everyone at heart. You wouldn't get out the bed at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning if you didn't care about people."

In reference to the $450 spent by the Colston Fire Department to secure the land, Preston stated, "if it is determined that it is not in the best interest of the county and ISO ratings to build a station at that location, then spending that money would not have been a good investment for the Colston Department. If it is determined that it is in the best interest of the county and for ISO ratings and the council redraws the lines, then it was a good investment." Preston also added, "Either way, the decision to spend the money for the survey was made by Colston [Fire Department], without the approval of council or the fire chiefs."

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