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Worthville Station questions persist; Citizen interrogates commissioners on closure

By Stewart Voegtlin

stewart@jacksonprogress-argus.com

Butts County resident Larry Wilson, last Monday night, fired a barrage of questions at the Board of Commissioners regarding the Worthville Fire Station's closure.

Wilson has appeared before the Board three times, and has continued to ask for "written assurance" that the station's closure won't affect the Insurance Service Office (ISO) rating, which could affect insurance premiums.

County Administrator Alan White told the Progress-Argus the county had verbal assurance the rating wouldn't change (see "ISO says Worthville closure won't change rating" JPA 3/17/10). White also said the county received a federal grant in excess of $500,000 to rebuild the Worthville Station. The county must either produce a 10 percent fund match or provide "in kind" services, which could take the form of extensive road work.

"I'm here tonight to continue my commitment to the Worthville Community in regard to that Worthville Fire Station," Wilson said. "I had a concern about proximity of residents to fire station that will affect insurance rates. [ Alan White] said he would call the insurance office and I'm asking what the result of that call was?"

White said there was no change in rate, and Wilson asked to have it in writing.

"Verbal agreements have no weight in a court of law," said Wilson. "I know what my attorney said."

Wilson asked who made the decision to close the fire station.

White said it was a joint decision between himself and former County Fire Chief Tommy Ingram.

Wilson asked the date of the decision and who was present when the decision was made.

White said he and Ingram were present.

Wilson then asked how the commissioners learned of the decision to close the fire station.

Commissioner Robert Henderson said he learned of the closure through an e-mail. Commissioner Gator Hodges said he learned from a phone call from Alan White the day the station was closed.

Board Vice Chairman Roger McDaniel told Wilson he didn't remember the exact date, but he received a phone call about the "possibility of [the station] closing.

I also received phone calls from residents," McDaniel said.

"Is it fair to say you heard about it after the fact and not before the fact? Wilson asked.

"I'm not going to let you interrogate the Board like this is some kind of hearing," Board Chairman Mitch McEwen said. "If you fill out the appropriate forms you can get that information. We're not going to be interrogated like some criminals. I can't sit here and tell you every e-mail and phone call and the date and time that it happens. But we can get you the info in a timely manner outside of this Board Meeting."

Wilson said it disturbed him the county administrator had the ability to shut down a facility like the Worthville Fire Station.

"I am very alarmed that we've had a facility shut down that protects our residents of Butts County," said Wilson. "There has to be something done. I will pursue through the clerk the info that I seek."

Commissioner Henderson told Wilson he was glad the station was shut down.

"It might have hurt someone down the road," Henderson said. "And now it is going to be rebuilt."