The Columbia County Commission voted during a Thursday budget session to add funding to cover the expansion of service at three Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue stations in unincorporated parts of the county.
Commissioners approved $351,887 in additional funding for the department to provide full-time, 24-hour staffing at its stations on White Road outside Harlem, Columbia Road outside Appling and a new station at the former Leah High School site on Ray Owens Road near Washington Road.
The additional staffing, 11 firefighters and a captain's position, and the new station should be operational July 1, provided positions are filled in time and the temporary station is completed in Leah, county emergency services director Pam Tucker said.
"This will bring 100 percent of the county to within less than five miles from a fire station," she said.
That five-mile mark improves the county's Insurance Services Office Inc., or ISO, Fire Suppression Rating. Better ISO ratings can lower homeowners' insurance rates, Tucker said.
In other action, Tucker said the construction of permanent stations on Sugarcreek Drive and Old Louisville and Clary Cut roads should be completed by September.
Also at Thursday's meeting, county officials said they expected the Columbia County Landfill on Baker Place Road to be full and closed by the end of June.
Officials said budgeting for closing procedures is not complete, but it will take six months to meet state Environmental Protection Division closure standards and the budget will include funding for a staff to maintain the closed dump.
Officials also acknowledged active research into the feasibility and cost of a countywide or Martinez-Evans area recycling program.
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