With both cities on board, Columbia County is ready to move forward with its plan to run fire service in the county.
Harlem officials at a city council meeting Monday followed Grovetown in signing the county's interim fire service agreement. The contract, which expires at the end of the year, states that fire departments from both cities will continue to provide fire service to residents in their districts outside city limits for a $532 per call fee paid by the county.
"It is not something we are thrilled with, but something we can live with," Harlem Mayor Scott Dean said.
Pam Tucker, the county's Emergency Services Division director, said both cities will soon be receiving a check for services retroactive to Jan. 1.
She said negotiations on a more permanent contract to take over when the interim expires will begin in June.
"In a nutshell, this is something to get us started," County Commissioner Lee Anderson said.
Harlem also signed another county contract Monday accepting 2.7 percent of the county's one-cent sales tax revenues from 2006-2011. Imposing the tax is still subject to voter approval on a July 20 referendum to extend the collections.
Like all other penny sales tax projects, Harlem's are separated into three tiers based on how much revenue the county collects. Harlem could receive just more than $1.4 million during the first tier, which will be used to upgrade the city's sewer plant and repair and replace new sewer and water lines.
Harlem Fire Department firefighters filled the meeting to hear about a new idea county officials are exploring - turning the police and fire departments into a joint department of public safety similar to Grovetown's.
City officials invited Grovetown Department of Public Safety Chief A.L. Robinson to answer questions and explain the pros and cons of the public safety system.
Harlem's city council approved forming an exploratory committee made up of a council member and representatives from police and fire departments that will report back to city officials in two weeks.
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