Polk County Public Safety Committee - Jan 30, 2018

Rockmart Fire Chief Todd Queen and City Manager Jeff Ellis show Public Safety Committee members plans for a new fire department rescue truck. 

The Rockmart Fire Department is hoping the Polk County Commission will soon give their blessing to providing half the funds needed to help replace a critical truck used locally for a variety of operations.

Rockmart Fire Chief Todd Queen and City Manager Jeff Ellis brought with them plans, prices and good reasons for replacing one of the Rescue trucks in operation on the east side of Polk County that has provided a host of headaches and costs for the department. They’re seeking the county’s help as part of an Automatic Aid Agreement between the city and county to help with fire department operations and ensure that local residents get a lower Insurance Service Organization rate for home owner’s insurance. That agreement already provides for help covering the costs of the Rockmart Fire Department’s fire training center.

In the latest request, Queen is asking for half the cost of a new truck, the additional equipment needed to hold hydraulics and Hazmat items and much more that’ll come to more than $200,000 before everything is completed. He said that the current set of hydraulic tools that are in use on the truck are well used, and that replacements from the manufacturer now offer a battery-powered option that can handle the design of newer vehicles when they need to be cut up when in vehicle accidents.

Right now the rescue truck is a well-aged Ford F-550 with a problematic diesel engine, which is also in the shop currently. Queen said during the past years they’ve spent more than $21,000 on repairs to keep it running.

If the county were to make a commitment to share the cost of the purchase, Queen said he could make an order from 10-8 Fire Equipment in early march with the hopes of having the new rescue truck in operation before year’s end.

“It is an important piece of equipment,” Queen said. “We know how well the city and county have worked well with each other for several years now, and we’re hoping for your help on this once again.”

Rockmart and Polk County’s governments would share the cost, and depending on financing options could spread out payments for the new rescue truck over a number of years. The City of Rockmart would assume all costs for any future repairs on the proposed purchase of a new Dodge diesel truck.

Rockmart’s firefighters who man the Rescue truck are responsible not only for extracting victims of vehicle accidents from cars if needed, but also provide backup emergency medical service, and also keep the county’s Hazmat equipment on board for times when environmental hazards are encountered, like chemical spills or when police find meth labs that need removal.

No decision yes or no about whether to approve the county’s half of the purchase was made during the committee meeting, but members promised to study the request and try to find funds to cover the purchase cost.

The county also completely covers the cost of new rescue vehicles that are in use by the Cedartown Fire Department, but those are manned and housed in Cedartown Fire facilities as part of an informal agreement to assist with emergency calls in the county.

Other committee items included a recommendation from the county management and officers at the Polk County Police Department that the county’s public safety and public works complex area along the intersections of Highway 278 and the Highway 27 bypass in Cedartown should be renamed in honor of Detective Kristen Hearne, killed in the line of duty in September of 2017. More about the plans will be announced in the weeks to come, according to Polk County officials.

Additionally a portrait of Det. Hearne sent into the police department following her death is being reframed and plans are being established to have it hang in one of the Polk County Courthouses as well.

Det. Hearne was shot and killed in the line of duty in September 2017 with an outpouring of community support following for her family and the department. Commissioners asked for the recommendations from officers before making any final decision.

Look online this week and in the upcoming print edition for more stories from the Public Safety committee including 2017 Polk County Police Department figures, spending on Sheriff’s office transports of prisoners from around the state, and putting together a Emergency Management mobile command post.