GRADY COUNTY Fire Chief Richard Phillips inspects a set of turnout gear at the Cairo station Tuesday. The Grady County Commission approved the purchase of 15 sets of new fire gear Tuesday and also responded to allegations raised on social media concerning adequate funding and equipment for the county volunteer fire department.
Allegations of Grady County Volunteer Fire Department firefighters not being properly equipped have recently surfaced on social media and on Tuesday, Grady County commissioners questioned Fire Chief and Emergency Management Agency director Richard Phillips about the accusations.
Included in the agenda for Tuesday’s commission meeting was a recommendation to purchase 15 sets of new turnout gear at the behest of Chief Phillips at a cost of $27,189 from Georgia Fire and Rescue Supply.
Commissioner June Knight asked what was the total cost to outfit a volunteer fireman, and Chief Phillips responded approximately $13,000 per firefighter.
“Are all of ours up to par?” Commissioner Knight asked, and Chief Phillips explained that annually the chief of each V.F.D. station in the county is asked to submit a budget request. Chief Phillips then combines the requests and solicits bids before bringing forward a recommendation to the commission.
“If a chief doesn’t ask for turnout gear in their budget, I remind them they need to,” Chief Phillips said.
The county fire chief said that his goal is to purchase two to three sets for each station each year to keep new equipment in rotation. He said otherwise the department would one year come up needing more for new equipment than the county could fund in a single year.
“You don’t want to wait until it’s out-of-date or it would be too expensive to replace,” Chief Phillips said.
Grady County administrator J.C. (Buddy) Johnson III, asked Chief Phillips had he ever denied a request for turnout gear from a station chief. According to Chief Phillips, that has never happened.
“From what I understand, we are ahead of the game with regards to our equipment and gear,” commented Commissioner Phillip Drew.
“We are light years ahead of where we were. Years ago, we were borrowing equipment from other counties. If a chief or a firefighter has something out-of-date they need to come see me,” Chief Phillips said.
“I appreciate that chief. The narrative sometimes gets mixed up and it can sound like our firemen are not getting the turnout gear they need, but that apparently is not true,” Johnson said.
Commissioner Knight asked how many vendors are solicited for bids and was the equipment bid out annually.
Chief Phillips said that he solicited four bids this years but received three bids. He also said that he did not necessarily recommend the lowest bid, but recommended the best bid. Chief Phillips also noted that the gear must meet the minimum specifications required by the department.
Commissioner Ray Prince agreed with the chief’s approach and commented the county should not scrimp on gear when a fireman’s life was on the line.
The board voted unanimously to accept the chief’s recommendation for the purchase of the new turnout gear.
In related business this week, Commissioner Prince quizzed Chief Phillips on the status of finding suitable sites for two substations that have been budgeted for construction to aid in lowering the rate local homeowners pay for fire insurance in certain areas of the county that do not currently benefit from the lower rates based on the county’s I.S.O. rating.
According to Chief Phillips, he is still trying to find two suitable locations.