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Posted on: February 14, 2019

Debate continues in Hardeeville after county officials terminate fire contract

Hardeeville, S.c. (WTGS Fox 28) -- When the Jasper County Council decided to terminate the City of Hardeeville’s fire contract in November last year, it created a fire storm of controversy still raging today.

Hardeeville Mayor Harry Williams said after that decision was made he submitted a proposal to county leadership. In the proposal, Williams said there would be a cost savings of nearly $2.6 million per year.

The county’s decision to terminate the contract would cut into the city’s budget by $732,000, Williams said that about 25 percent of the city’s fire budget.

He is also questioning the county’s rationale to open two new fire stations, one at Mead Road which is less than 2 miles from the Argent Road station and the other on Stiney Road.

“This is an issues of public safety,” said Williams. “We have not been given an official word on our proposal.”

County Chairman Tom Johnson told Fox 28 he and council have entertained offers from the city but ultimately did not change the decision to resume fire service, We asked Johnson if he or any member of council responded to the mayor’s proposal.

“I was not aware of that’s the way Harry felt,” he said.

Johnson said there was a ‘very extensive’ dialogue over the fire service issue.

Williams said the two new fire stations being built by the county will cost $1,878,000. Currently the city provides fire service to the Cherry Point District and rural areas of Hardeeville and fore that they receive $527,000 from the county in the form of ad-valorem tax revenue.

“They plan to spend County money tax payer money on fire stations that are literally right down the street from existing stations,” said Williams.

Assistant Fire Chief Joey Rowell said this is about community service.

”The folks at the service delivery level, the residents our citizens our customers they are the ones that suffer through this we want to make sure that our folks are protected,” said Rowell.

Assistant Deputy Chief Elliot DeBiase echoed Rowell’s sentiment.

“I think we are all hoping that both sides will come to some type of agreement talk about this in a logical fashion with the best interest of the residents and business owners,” said DeBiase.

Williams said this decision should come down to community input at the next council meeting.

“What is the best way to deliver services to all of Jasper County that benefits the taxpayer and also delivers the public safety that we all promised to give, let the people speak let them tell us how to proceed,” he said.

The next county meeting will be February 19, at 6:30 in council chambers in Ridgeland, Clementa C. Pinckney Government Building, 358 Third Avenue.

FOX 28 Media
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