Macon, Bibb County may combine for fire rating

It’s possible Macon and Bibb County could be combined for the purpose of being evaluated by the Insurance Services Office.

The ISO provides rankings for municipal and county fire departments to help insurance companies calculate premiums.

As things stand now, Macon-Bibb County Fire Chief Marvin Riggins said ISO inspects Macon and Bibb County separately and assigns them ratings as separate entities.

Macon boasts a rating of one — the best on the one to 10 rating scale — while Bibb County is rated at a three.

Riggins said he’s received notice from ISO that due to manpower and efforts to become more efficient, ISO is considering melding Macon and Bibb County into one entity for rating purposes.

If the two entities are joined, Riggins said many of the fire department’s long range plans — including building three new fire stations — would need to be sped up to ensure Macon doesn’t lose its top ranking.

“We would certainly go to the drawing board to see what it would take to maintain a class one rating for all of Bibb County,” Riggins said.

At the earliest, the change could happen in two years. The fire department also may be eligible to file for a time extension to make preparations, he said.

Riggins said there are still a few areas in the county rated as a nine because of limited water protection.

To bring Bibb County to a rating of one, more water mains would be needed. The locations of fire stations, fire trucks and fire hydrants would need to be re-examined, he said.

“There’s a lot involved,” he said.

Riggins said the long range plan to improve ratings for Macon and Bibb County includes building three new fire stations — one in north Bibb County, one in east Macon and one in northeast Bibb County.

The station in north Bibb County, near Bass Road and Wesleyan Drive, would be the first one built, he said.

“Along with that comes personnel and more costs,” Riggins said.

State Farm Insurance Spokesman Justin Tamczak said he can’t estimate what monetary effect an ISO shift could make on insurance premiums.

He said it’s unlikely residents insured by State Farm would see much of an immediate change in premiums if Bibb County’s rating improved from a three to a one.

But if inspectors saw a significant improvement in fire services, over time that could translate into lower premiums, Tamczak said.

There are no plans to combine departments in Houston County for rating purposes, said Warner Robins Fire Chief Robert Singletary. Warner Robins is rated as a three.

Houston County Fire Chief Jimmy Williams said he’s constantly trying to move toward improving the county’s rating, which ranges from six to nine, to a four or a five.

He said portions of the county that are within five miles of a fire station and have a good water source are rated as a six. Otherwise, the areas are rated as a nine.

“From a six to a five you could save $150 to $200 a year,” Williams said.

To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.