Jackson County enjoined from further work on West Jackson EMS station, pending Dec. 10 hearing

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The petition by four Jackson County men to force relocation of the EMS station in West Jackson will be heard in Superior Court on Dec. 10 and, until that time, no further work can be done on the station.

Keith Hayes Construction has already begun work on the project.

Albon E. Gilbert, Jerry Tate, James Lyle and Douglas C. Waters Sr., are the plaintiffs in the civil action which names the Jackson County Board of Commissioners are defendants. David C, Jones Jr., of Homer, is representing the four men.

The mandamus to halt construction work on the facility off Lewis Braselton Boulevard was signed Tuesday by Judge T. David Motes.

Motes’ order, filed in the office of Jackson County Clerk of Superior Court Camie W. Thomas, enjoins the county from any and all work on the station until further order of the court.

Although work has been under way on the site since September, there remain those who want the station moved closer to Jefferson while others argue that the West Jackson area is an area of population and commercial growth that needs the enhanced public safety protection.

 

The Board of Commissioners and staff have fielded questions about the siting of the station but another considered option was located near Highway 60.

Although the location for the county’s EMS Station #3 had already been approved in a Nov. 7, 2011 meeting, Commissioner Tom Crow said the following month that he would still like the board to consider placing the station nearer to Highway 60.

In a 3-2 vote at a late December 2011 meeting, Chairman Hunter Bickell was authorized to execute a supplemental agreement for $57,612.68 with E.R. Snell for graded aggregate base, curb and gutter, paving and striping at EMS Station #3. E.R. Snell was already working on the Zion Church Road rerouting project and with a 45-day extension and a check for $57,612.68, work got under way to prep for the station.

Crow expressed a desire for reconsideration of the site, but that did not come. Crow was joined by Commissioner Dwain Smith in opposing the contract amendment, but Commissioners Bruce Yates, Chas Hardy and Hunter voted to proceed with the additional site work. Crow had previously supported the site on the donated land.

Crow contends the current new station location leaves too many Jackson County residents out of the 5-mile response radius which the American Heart Association suggests provides the best survivability for a heart attack patient.

Crow provided a breakdown of calls from 2006 and 2007 included in a memo from then-Department of Emergency Services Chief Chad W. Hope to then-County Manager Crandall O. Jones. “The data clearly indicate both on a partial year and complete year analysis — the potential to decrease response times and reach a greater geographical services area exist at the Highway 124 location. It also has the distinct advantage of increasing the in-county geographical coverage; thereby increasing the resources and efficiency of those resources available to Jackson County.”

Crow will be moving into the chairman’s chair in January, and there is speculation that the mandamus’ timing could find the EMS station’s location back before the board in spite of the funds already expended on the project.

Commissioner Yates, who represents the West Jackson area, had contended the placement of the station closer to Jefferson as Crow desires does not take into consideration the high volume of activity in the West Jackson area. When the economy does turn around and development begins anew, another station between the West Jackson and Jefferson areas may be required to give added coverage for the more dense residential character the area will take on.

Last December, Crow said it didn’t think it had been made clear to the community; they did not understand the impact of the station location.

At that time, Public Safety Director Steve Nichols said land was the deciding factor in his recommendation of the Zion Church Road site location. The county does not have property in the area favored by Crow and the county has no assurance that the proposed interchange at Interstate 85 and Highway 60 will be built. That project had been on the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (T-SPLOST) list, however, last July voters overwhelming rejected collection of another penny of sales tax to be earmarked for T-SPLOST projects such as the new interchange. The tax was to have been collected over a 10-year period.

Yates and Crow had been poised to face off against each other for the commission chairman’s post as current Chairman Bicknell was making a Congressional bid. Public safety was likely to be a point of contention between them as Crow was a longtime volunteer firefighter. When Bicknell withdrew from that race and instead began campaigning for re-election, Yates opted to remain in his District 3 commission post.