Jul 29, 2014

A Dunwoody Fire Department?

City council members discussed the idea of a city fire department and recommended an analysis be done on its feasibility at a Monday meeting.

A Dunwoody Fire Department?

In the face of rising county taxes and continuing issues with the city's 911 dispatch service, Dunwoody council members Monday broached the idea of starting a fire department.

"The city of Dunwoody doesn't raise taxes DeKalb County does," said Councilman Doug Thompson, noting two county millage increases in the last four years. "If you look at it - where it's trending - are the taxpayers of the city of Dunwoody willing to be better served by being with the city of Dunwoody or DeKalb County Fire for the next 20 years?"

"Guys, it's starting to point to us," he said.

Mayor Mike Davis said he was interested in seeing an analysis of what a fire department could cost the city of Dunwoody.

Councilman Terry Nall, in his opening remarks, said that he recently asked city staff to look onto what it would take to stand up a Dunwoody Fire Department in the face of a 30 percent county tax increase and shifting services from DeKalb.

DeKalb Fire had recently repositioned a fire rescue team from Roberts Drive to elsewhere in DeKalb County, Nall reported. He also inquired about creating a local fire marshall service that would allow building plans to be reviewed in Dunwoody as opposed to the county.

Nall asked city staffers about a recent incident that sent a medical call directly to DeKalb Fire. Since the city in 2010 entered into an agreement with Chatcomm 911 - a shared government service - Dunwoody has handled its own police and fire calls.

City Manager Warren Hutmacher said that the residence Nall inquired about was in an eastern pocket of Dunwoody North. The "inexact science" of the way calls are routed by the telephone services to the city's emergency dispatch service or the county's was the cause of the situation, Hutmacher said.

The city is also eight months behind schedule on a computer-aided dispatch interface with DeKalb County that would allow fire calls to be automatically routed to DeKalb. Since the city joined the service in 2010, they have been using a "one-button" transfer that reroutes medical and fire calls to DeKalb County once they are received by Chatcomm.

The interface is also expected to cost $30,000 to $40,000 more than was originally budgeted.

Thompson said that city staff had been working hard to get the service up and running, and expressed frustration that Dunwoody didn't have more control over the process that involves the Chatcomm agency and DeKalb County.

Thompson said the "ultimate way" to solve the problem is to stand up a Dunwoody Fire Department, but pulled back from completely backing the idea.

"I don't know if I'm willing to do that just yet," he said.


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