Monday February 8th, 2016 6:16PM

Demorest discusses fire coverage, station issues

By Rob Moore Reporter
DEMOREST - Since signing an automatic aid agreement to provide fire protection for un-served or underserved areas of Habersham County, Demorest Fire Department's call volume has skyrocketed.<br /> <br /> Fire Chief Ken Ranalli reported Tuesday night about the increased call volume, the forthcoming ISO review, and failing concrete on the apron in front of the engine bays at the fire station.<br /> <br /> "The bigger concern for me is the amount of cost increase that we've had since we've had this aid agreement with the county," Austin said. "Our call volume has gone up, according to Chief Ranalli, between 160 and 180 percent."<br /> <br /> The new area covered by the automatic aid agreement with Habersham County carries Demorest Fire Department responders almost to Mt. Airy - and in some cases into that town.<br /> <br /> "We're servicing an awful lot of areas outside of the city limits," Austin said. "We've got much more call volume, wear and tear on vehicles, gas/diesel, and you name it - and it's costing the city residents." <br /> <br /> Austin said he and Councilman John Popham, who is over public safety, will meet with Habersham County Fire Chief Jeff Cain and County Manager Phil Sutton to try to reach a more mutually beneficial agreement.<br /> <br /> "We're going to have to sit down and kind of go back through that agreement with the county now that it's been in place for about six months and perhaps tweak it and talk about how we can have an agreement that is mutually beneficial, not only for the county fire but also for the City of Demorest Fire Department," Austin said.<br /> <br /> The failing concrete in front of the engine bays at the fire station also was discussed.<br /> <br /> A preliminary cost estimate to repair and strengthen concrete in front of the bays came in around $2,400.<br /> <br /> Officials also discussed the possibility of erecting a building beside the existing station to house both the department's heavy trucks - an engine and ladder truck. <br /> <br /> Ranalli reminded them any structure constructed would have to be heated.<br /> <br /> "We know we've got some structural components that need to be dealt with with our present building that houses our fire department," Austin said. "We need to address those."<br /> <br /> Discussion of the matter will continue at next Tuesday's city council meeting.<br /> <br /> Ranalli also said his department is preparing for the arrival of ISO to evaluate the department. The resulting ISO rating will affect insurance rates for structures in the department's response area.<br /> <br /> "Obviously, we've got ISO that's forthcoming," Austin said. "It could be as soon as December, so we need to address a number of issues, but as Chief Ranalli said we're way ahead of where a lot of folks are at this point in time as we prepare for ISO."<br />
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