FORT VALLEY -- Peach County’s new public safety complex at 1770 U.S. 341 North has a few things worth crowing about. But those benefits are not what’s most endearing to the fire chief and many others in the community.
It’s all in a name.
But first a little bit about the complex itself: It’s the new headquarters for the Peach County Fire Department, which is also the new headquarters for Peach County Emergency Management Services.
It’s the first time the two agencies have been housed together, said Peach County Fire Chief Jeff Doles, who also serves as the county’s Emergency Management Agency director.
The nearly 20,000-square-foot building cost only about $500,000 to build, and that’s because firefighters built it.
“Every stick of it,” Doles said.
Former County Commissioner James Khoury noted the building is valued at about $1.8 million.
“They saved the county untold amounts of money,” Khoury said of firefighters. He was on the commission when $500,000 in special purpose local option sales tax funds were earmarked for the building. “We got sweat equity.”
It’s also the third and largest building firefighters have constructed. They built two stations. And the Peach County Board of Education donated the land, Khoury said. The new Hunt Primary School is nearby.
In addition, it’s the first time firefighters, and EMS for that matter, have been stationed in the northwest end of the county, Doles said. That’s improved coverage area and expected response times, he said.
But what makes the new complex so special to Doles and many others is its name: the J.D. “Donnie” Doles Public Safety Complex.
Doles, a former 20-year Peach County commissioner, is the late father of Jeff Doles.
“It means a tremendous amount to me and my family,” Doles said of the complex being named after his dad.
Donnie Doles, who served five times as commission chairman, was a go-getter, said Peach County Tax Commissioner W.L. Brown.
If something needed to be done for his family, church or community, Donnie Doles went and got it done, Brown said.
Brown was among those who wrote letters last year, while the building was under construction, asking commissioners to name the building after Donnie Doles. The building was dedicated Sept. 24.
“He was just a great man,” said Brown, who served with Donnie Doles on the commission for four years. “He worked extremely hard to do things for the betterment of the county.”
Brown said he never heard Donnie Doles raise his voice, lose his temper or say an ugly word about anyone. “He was a good Christian man,” Brown said.
Donnie Doles was instrumental in landing the county its first “fire knocker” from the Georgia Forestry Commission and for obtaining the county’s first ambulances. A fire knocker is 2.5-ton truck with a 900-gallon water tank and 95-gallon per minute pump, Jeff Doles said.
“We used it for everything we had,” he said.
The ambulance service evolved from being run out of funeral homes by utilizing hearses, to being run through the sheriff’s office to the hospital, and then back to the county as an EMS service using ambulances.
“In my mind, he was the best commissioner we ever had,” Khoury said.
Donnie Doles, who died in July 2000 at the age of 72, was a farmer. He grew row cops of soy beans and corn. He also had grain, apples and, at one time, peaches on his farm. In his latter years of farming, he concentrated on cotton.
He was married to June, his wife of 46 years. They raised four children.
He was elected in 1964, took office in 1965 and served until December of 1984. As a county commissioner, Donnie Doles served on numerous boards and authorities.
Jeff Doles remembers playing on the first baseball field the city of Fort Valley ever had that was made possible by the Jaycees, he said. His father was instrumental in that project.
The baseball field is long gone. But the memories linger and his father’s name has not been forgotten.
“He was somebody special to us,” Jeff Doles said.