COVINGTON — District 1 County Commissioner Stan Edwards is urging board members who tabled a bond resolution for a fire station to consider the broader public safety ramifications of that decision.
In comments sent to the Citizen Friday, Edwards sought to provide some perspective on how Fire Station 4, which would be located on Big Woods Road in District 5, would impact safety throughout the county.
“Fire stations located within various districts do not serve those districts only, per se,” said Edwards. “For example, a station in District 4 is out on a call when another emergency arises in District 4. The closest fire station is already out on a call, so who responds? The next closest station, probably in another district.”
Edwards’ comments came in the wake of a decision by three members of the county’s Public Facilities Authority — which is made up of the five district commissioners — to table approval of a bond resolution for Station 4 until they get feedback from the county manager on funding for more than $42 million in bonds they are seeking for special projects in their individual districts.
Fire Station 4 has been in the works for more than a year. The Board of Commissioners has already approved the project, agreed to back the bonds, and has purchased land and broken ground on the facility. In addition, commissioners approved funding for a firetruck for Station 8 be included in the bonding for Station 4. Other than the renovation of the former R.L. Cousins school, none of the projects proposed by Commissioners Demond Mason, Alana Sanders and J.C. Henderson for bonding have previously been discussed by the Board of Commissioners.
Edwards said he did not want to address the “political tactics” used by the three commissioners to table the fire station bond, but he did want to point out that the new fire station benefits the entire county.
“Our stations and firefighters serve the public safety needs of the entire county,” he said. “They act in the best interest of the county as a whole — like how the oath I took to be a commissioner requires me to act in the best interest of the county — not just my district.”
As an example, Edwards pointed out that the recently re-opened Station 2, which is located in District 1, responds to more calls in District 2, which is represented by Mason, than in District 1.
“I knew that four years ago when I started pushing to have Station 2 refitted and re-opened,” he said. “My only goal was to get a public safety gap filled in the heart of Newton County, regardless of districts.”
Edwards further commented:
“I have voted to approve each carefully vetted expenditure for the new Station 8, located in District 3. That public safety gap will soon be filled, and if Station 4 can be built, we as a county would have close to 95% of our citizens within 5 road miles of a fire station. That is huge for protection of lives and property – not to mention insurance premiums. The only problem is the engine/truck cost for Station 8 is rolled into the bonding for Station 4 and approved by the BOC back in 2020. So unfortunately, the fire protection for the north Oxford area (District 3) will have a station but no engine/truck because the (Public Facilities Authority) refused to approve the bond issuance or at a minimum delayed the approval. That is 30 more days that the area will go without adequate fire protection. And by the way, based on the BOC approval of this purchase last year, the engine/truck will be delivered in about 30 days with no way to pay for it.
“The BOC approved (unanimously) funds and bonding for Station 4 in 2020 after the old station was closed in late 2019. Since that time there has been a significant gap in fire protection for the southeastern part of the county. The funding source for the land and building was identified as the 271 Fund – a county tax already in use for many years. That meant Station 4 land, building, and engine/truck would be at no additional tax to the citizens of the county. The old Station 4 was in District 1, but it was determined that the new Station 4 was placed strategically enough it could place more residents within 5 road miles of a fire station than the previous Station 4. With that in mind, a location was selected, and land purchased in district 5. The public safety need for the entire county was best met by putting the project in another district.
“The gist of my lengthy comments, I suppose, is to point out the continued need for new Fire Station 4 bonding because the safety of the entire county, north Oxford (District 3) and southeastern Newton County (Districts 1 and 5) specifically, depends on it.”