Pell City councilman opposes mutual aid agreement
by DAVID ATCHISON
Mar 23, 2010 | 1925 views |  3 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
PELL CITY — One city councilman said he would vote against a proposed mutual aid agreement between the City and the Alabama Forestry Commission.

Councilman Donnie Todd said he has a problem with the city providing fire protection for residents who have refused to annex into the city.

He said there are too many areas in his district that refuse to come into the city, but yet those same residents want city fire protection.

“I have a problem with that,” he said.

Officials say the city receives about $50,000 from a 2 mill property tax that is divided up between all the fire departments within St. Clair County.

Pell City Interim Fire Chief Jim Parsons said the current budget for the city’s fire department is $1.8-$2 million, and most of the funding is for salaries and benefits.

He said the $50,000 the fire department receives from the county is used for equipment and can’t be used for salaries.

Parsons said the tax was established in an effort to ensure all residents within the county had fire protection.

Currently, he said, the Fire Department does not respond to calls outside the city unless requested for assistance, and if the fire department has the available resources on hand at the time of the emergency to lend a helping hand.

“It’s not automatic aid,” Parsons said. “It’s if you get there and need us, we will help if we can. We do the same thing. We called Stemley (Volunteer Fire Department) last year to help us with a fire.”

He said the city currently has written mutual aid agreements with Riverside, Wattsville, New London, Wolf Creek, Cook Springs and Stemley Volunteer Fire Departments.

But the difference between the mutual aid agreements the city has with other fire departments and the one now proposed with the Alabama Forestry Commission is the city is required to respond immediately to fires outside the city.

“We aren’t obligated to respond on mutual aid fires,” he said. “We send what we have available, if we have something available.”

Parson said the proposed agreement between the City and the Alabama Forestry Commission would require the fire department to automatically respond to fires outside the city limit, not after the Alabama Forestry Commission arrives on the scene and determines there is a need for assistance.

He said the areas in question are unincorporated areas generally surrounded by the city, areas where residents have refused to annex inside the city.

“There are lots of areas around Mays Bend that there’s no way anyone could respond to without going through the city,” Parsons said. “…I could be mistaken, but I don’t think the Alabama Forestry Commission is equipped to fight structure fires.”

The council tabled the proposed mutual aid agreement between the city and the Alabama Forestry Commission and is expected to take up the issue again at its next regularly scheduled work session and council meeting next month.

Nobody was available for immediate comment Tuesday at the Alabama Forestry Commission Office in Odenville.

In other matters Monday night, the council:

• Approved a retail beer (off premises only) and retail table wine (off premises only) license to Walgreen’s Store # 10480 located at 1649 Martin St N.

• Approved a resolution urging citizens to remove garbage cans from the street after pickup. Residents are also urged to call the city’s water department if they have a damaged garbage cart.

• Approved Resolution No. 2010-3040 regarding EMA’s Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan.

• Appointed Councilman James McGowan as the voting delegate for the League of Municipalities Convention in May.

• Reappointed Tommy Bowers to the St. Clair County Economic Development Council.

• Approved a resolution authorizing the local Business and Professional Women organization to serve alcohol at their April 17 fund raiser at the Pell City Civic Center.