GAINESVILLE - Hall County Commissioners learned Monday afternoon they're going to need more firefighters and another ladder truck to hold fire insurance rates down.
They learned that from Hall Fire Chief David Kimbrell who said the Insurance Services Office is paying a visit soon; Kimbrell wants to have a second ladder truck in place where it is needed most. That's near the Lanier Village Estates, where around 800 people live in two six story buildings. ISO sets county wide fire insurance rates, based in part on fire protection. Hall County is now a Class Four.
"We feel confident that if we do that we will definitely stay a Four and we're optimistic that we can go to a Three," Chief Kimbrell said. "Insurance is based on other things besides the ISO rating; it's based on the type of property, it's based on credit history, the age of the person and the age of the home but anytime you lower that rating it results in lower insurance premiums."
Kimbrell said getting the ladder truck and paying fire fighters to man it is worth holding the fire insurance rate at Class Four or even reducing it. Hall's only ladder truck is on Atlanta Highway in South Hall County.
"Anytime you can lower the rating like that, you affect that throughout the entire county and it's much more of a savings than it is a cost," Kimbrell added.
The Chief said the truck, a used 2006 model from Ohio costing $525,000, could be in Hall County by the time Fire Station 16 opens. That station is closest to Lanier Village Estates off Highway 60 north of Gainesville.That's the half the cost of a new truck at just over $1-million. Extra fire fighters to man the truck would cost $400,000 for the remainder of the fiscal year and while Commissioner Craig Lutz said he agreed that the county needed the truck, the taxpayer burden gave him 'heart burn'.
"That's a huge burden on everybody else out there because that four hundred grand is a lot of money every year and it is going to require a tax increase," Lutz said. "That needs to be thought about when we make this commitment, that we are going to have to increase the fire fund tax in the future to accommodate this."
County Finance Director Vickie Neikirk said this year the county received $400,000 more in insurance premium tax than anticipated and hopes that next year it would increase by $200,000 to $300,000.
"I would hope that with the increase in the digest we're anticipating it would cover that; I'm hoping we could absorb it without having to do a tax increase," Neikirk said. "Maybe the new equipment could help the ISO rating and we could get back a larger insurance premium refund."
When a giant mixed use residential/commercial project by a Marietta firm comes up for review Thursday, it is not getting any action from county commissioners if Commissioner Scott Gibbs has his way.
Barker Street's proposed 476 acre development on Highway 365 depends on county sewer; Gibbs said there's no commitment yet.
"I have some heart burn voting on high density housing that currently has no way of being serviced with sewer," Gibbs said. "Thursday I'm definitely going to ask that it be tabled until we get some answers back from Public Works about which direction we're going in."
Gibbs said the Commission could proceed with the rezoning request hearing from Agricultural to Planned Commercial and Residential Thursday. Hall County Planning commissioners recommended project approval over opposition from neighboring land owners who objected to apartments near their property.
Commissioners heard from the President of the Georgia Veterinary Medical Association concerning canine tethering. Hall County Veterinarian Dr .Denise Funk spoke for a delegation of women opposed to tethering and in supporting tethering laws.
"Dogs are social animals," Funk said. "When they are tethered out in the yard with limited human access and exercise behavioral problems are to follow. Aggression is the most common."
Funk said she would support educating dog owners as well as dog tethering fines. Commissioner Jeff Stowe said he asked Animal Control Director Mike Ledford to research how the county could deal with tethering and expected a report soon.