Council set to OK Archery Club, next target is fire department, ISO rating

bpurser@macon.comMarch 4, 2013 

PERRY -- Council members gave their blessing Monday to the use of city recreational facilities by the Middle Georgia Archery Club, and heard an update on proposals to improve the city’s ISO rating -- including doubling the number of paid firefighters.

One of those proposals to improve the ISO rating includes hiring 18 additional firefighters at a cost of $1.3 million, Fire Chief Joel Gray told council members at the work session. The city now has 18 full-time firefighters.

“Chief, we’ll have to get back to you on that,” said Mayor Jimmy Faircloth. “We do recognize the problem.”

If the funds were generated by property tax revenues, the cost would be the equal to a four-mill increase, Faircloth said.

Neither the mayor or council members appeared keen on a tax hike, with Faircloth noting that suggestions are welcomed.

The Insurance Services Office uses a Fire Suppression Schedule that measures key components of a community’s fire-suppression system such as fire alarms, engine companies and water supply to develop a numerical grading. The grading is called a Public Protection Classification that is more commonly referred to as the ISO rating. The rating is used to help determine property insurance rates. A rating of 1 represents the best public protection, and a 10 indicates no recognized protection.

The city’s rating is now 5/9 while coverage outside five miles of the city is a 10. This includes the area near the new Fire Station No. 2. Recent heavy rains have stalled paving of the parking lot at the station.

The 5/9 rating -- with the 9 considered a deficiency -- impacts structures within five miles of the city’s station that are serviced by a two-port fire hydrant, or a hydrant that has two main water discharges that are 2.5 inches in diameter. The city also has newer conventional two-port hydrants that also have a large steamer cap in the front of the hydrant.

The lower ranking is for the older two-port hydrants. Those hydrants are no longer recognized by the ISO as acceptable for structures more than 1,000 feet from a hydrant, he said.

As a result, the fire department has identified 65 of its 154 hydrants that could be moved while adding two additional hydrants installed to meet the ISO standards, Gray told council members.

That’s expected to cost the city about $150,000 for the hydrants and valves, Gray said.

The work may be able to be done in house, City Manager Lee Gilmour said. Hiring a company to do the work would increase the cost, he said.

Council members also gave Gray the green light to initiate a part-time firefighting program that would utilize off-duty members of the Warner Robins Fire Department and Peach County Fire Department. These part-time firefighters would fill in when city firefighters are on vacation and sick leave or when special events require additional firefighters, Gray said. The move would save the city about $37,360 in annual overtime, he said.

This was a separate measure from the city finding a funding solution to its ISO need.

Archery Club use of facility gets approved

In other business, council members were in agreement for the Archery Club to using the Barbara Calhoun Park for outdoor practice and using the inside basketball court at the Worrall Center at Rozier Park on Wednesdays and Fridays for after-school archery classes.

The club’s use of the city’s facilities included several conditions, such as a small fee for the use and that the club organizer provide necessary insurance coverage.

Lee Ford-Faherty, who started the Archery Club, said she felt both facilities would suit the club well “for now." She expects interest to grow.

Also, the council added to its Tuesday meeting agenda a measure to disband the recreation committee and start over because of a lack of participation at meetings by current members.

Councilman Riley Hunt noted that council’s meeting room fills up if a dime may possibly be cut from recreational programs, yet it’s hard to find people to faithfully serve on the recreation commission.

“That bugs me,” Hunt said.

Information from Telegraph archives were used in this report. To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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