As Jones Countys population has grown the past two decades from just over 20,000 residents to nearly 30,000, officials there in charge of emergency services have done what they could to keep up.
Despite improvements to the countys 157-volunteer-strong fire department in recent years, Chief Don Graham falls asleep many a night worrying: Will this be the night that calamity strikes and no one responds?
Not that that would ever happen, he said.
We have dedicated people. ... But volunteerism is pretty tough. This day and time people are not so willing to give their time.
The county recently broke ground on its 11th fire station, which will be built on a 5-acre tract in Griswoldville Park off Ga. 57. It is scheduled for completion by late spring.
Also, Graham is beginning the process for getting a new fire truck at the station, and officials are also building a new water tower in the area.
Im excited for the folks out there, he said.
The fire department is asking county commissioners for $2.1 million from a proposed 2015 sales tax initiative to pay for equipment upgrades -- and a 12th station.
That station would be situated along the soon-to-be-built Gray bypass.
We can get to anywhere in the county from that bypass, Graham said.
In recent years, Graham has led the charge to have three stations -- in River North, downtown Gray and along Ga. 49 in the south end of the county -- staffed by paid firefighters during the day.
That has helped cut response times almost in half, from about 11 minutes to six, and, in part, save homeowners as much as $300 a year on insurance.
Graham, 55, served 30 years as a paramedic with ambulance services in Macon. He took over as the countys fire chief and EMA director in 2009.
Long-range planning in any fire department is critical ... especially in a dynamic, growing county like Jones, Graham said.
To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.