Colston Fire Department makes decision on substation
Written by Mallory D. Biering   

Since January 2013, Chief Mack Clayton of the Colston Fire Department, along with its members, have been working to create a substation at 3985 Rivers Bridge Road. This substation, according to the action plan and Clayton, would benefit approximately 20 square miles and over 150 structures, who currently have an ISO rating of 10. This substation is hoped to lower the ISO rating, thus lowering the amount of insurance for the people within the area.

However, once Clayton received the donated land, in the amount of .5 acres, from Ralph Willis and family, there has been nothing but so called "resistance" according to Clayton.

At the May meeting of the Bamberg County Fire Advisory Board, "Clayton motioned to make a recommendation to County Council for the Colston Fire Department to receive $10,000 in funding for the Colston Substation and receive the same funding as the Hunters Chapel Substation."

No members objected to the motion after it received a second by Bamberg Fire Chief Timmie Taylor. However, at the next board meeting on June 27th, it was noted that, "board members were opposed to the plan because the proposed location [was] in the Ehrhardt Fire Department District and Zone 4." Clayton says, "Well that doesn't hold any water. When we built the Clear Pond Station the districts were revised. So what's to keep from redistricting?"

Brenna Hancock, Bamberg County Fire Coordinator stated, "We are unsure of the total cost of zone arrangement improvements at this time. Our current dispatching system needs to be updated before we may proceed with implementing any changes or updates to the fire zones," when asked about the amount of money it would cost to redistrict the fire zones.

Ehrhardt Fire Chief Chad Dilling was contacted about the substation action plan, redrawing the district lines and maybe even being the department to operate the substation, he said, "We don't have any funds for that at all. I think it would be a good idea to have a substation in that area, but it has been gone about in the wrong way. Now is not a good time to ask for county funding; the county is broke. The budget is already done for the year. There is no money for a substation. If Chief Clayton wants to build a substation, he needs to build it himself, with his own money." Dilling continued to say, "The Town of Ehrhardt has no interest in a substation, because it doesn't benefit the town in any way shape or form. It benefits the county, and if the county wants it, then it would have to build it for Ehrhardt."

Clayton is asking for money from the rural fire tax, and asking for the substation to be in the name of the Colston Fire Department. He said, "They [the board] are saying it should be titled to Bamberg County. Well this ain't a county wide tax, this is a rural fire tax. It should belong to the rural people, and that's the way my people feel," said Clayton and continued to say, "When they (the other fire departments) buy equipment or a truck, they don't title it to Bamberg County, then why because we are a rural station, does it have to be titled to Bamberg County?"

Clayton said, "Trent Kinard was at our fire board meeting last Thursday night, and said County Council is onboard with us putting a fire station there, but if we don't title it to the county, they won't let us have a county truck or whatever."

Clayton wanted to first speak with his fire department, who voted to do nothing further with the substation, and let the community petition to county council.

Clayton used money from the Colston Fire Department, in the amount of $450, to have the land surveyed and made ready to construct a building. It was noted there are volunteer firefighters close to the location of where the substation would be, and depending on where a fire was, would determine which station was used to respond to the call.

Clint Carter, Bamberg County Councilman for District 7 said, "I think it needs to happen, but the fire board voted it down because the land was not deeded to the county, and that is the holdup."

Hancock also noted the board did not approve the substation plan due to, "the lack of fire service funds." Hancock was unable to answer questions concerning the legality of Clayton using Colston Fire Department money, in another district to start a substation, without fire board approval.