HARDEEVILLE, SC (WTOC) - In November, Jasper County decided to terminate its long standing contract with the City of Hardeeville for fire services.
After months of negotiating, the city passed two resolutions Thursday night, hoping it will bring everyone closer to a solution.
Three items on the agenda involved the contract between the city and Jasper County surrounding the rural fire district. The mayor of Hardeeville did not mince his words when he came time to discuss the topic.
“This plan is way over budget. The Stiney Road location hasn’t even begun. Both of those locations are absolutely bad locations and yet they persist on this plan,” said Hardeeville Mayor, Harry Williams.
The plan Mayor Williams mentioned includes Jasper County voting to build two fire stations on Stiney and Mead roads to serve the Hardeeville Rural Fire District and unincorporated Cherry Point Fire Districts. The city had served those areas since 2005, and the new stations are supposed to cost $1.8 million to build.
“They have said on many occasions that they are prepared now and are ready now to go ahead and take over the fire service, and the city of Hardeeville has been attempting for many months to work out a mutually-agreed upon solution where we could assist the county in providing those services,” said council member, Carolyn Kassel.
Thursday’s resolutions included an inter-governmental agreement between the city and county for the rural fire district - so if the county asks for a truck to be sent, the city will send one as long as it is available, but automatic aid will be removed. They will also charge a lease for the space the county uses in the city’s fire stations. They also voted for a “mutual aid” agreement for the Cherry Point Fire District.
“If the county accepts the contract that we are giving them tonight, they won’t see hardly any changes in the Hardeeville Rural Area. They won’t see us on as many medical calls,” said Hardeeville Fire Chief, Steve Camp.
In the Cherry Point area, the county will take over. This means two-man engine companies instead of the current three-man companies. The county is an ISO class 4 and the city is a class 3, which could affect insurance rates. If the county calls in the city to help, it could cost them.
Both resolutions passed unanimously.
“It’s time for us to move on. We have done everything we could. We feel that it’s fair,” Kassel said.
The city manager described the resolutions as a “take it or leave it” offer for the county.
The resolutions the city voted on will be sent to Jasper County on Friday with a deadline for their response. Even if these changes are passed by the county, the disagreement between the city and county won’t put lives at risk.
“My guys will be instructed that if they’re in doubt- ride the call," Camp said.
The contract between the county and city expires June 30, 2019.