By DOTTY NIST
Approved by the Walton County Board of Commissioners (BCC) are tentative terms for Walton County to assume the current responsibilities of the Freeport Fire Department in 2014.
The BCC approved the tentative terms at its Sept. 10 regular meeting at the South Walton Annex.
Larry Jones, county administrator, presented the terms with the explanation that they had been developed in recent discussions between between county staff, Freeport City Council President Janice McLean, and Freeport’s legal counsel.
The terms provide for Walton County to assume responsibility for operations and management of the Freeport Fire Department (FFD) on Jan. 1, 2014. The city of Freeport would retain ownership of real property associated with the fire department, including the station, and lease it to the county at a cost of $1 per year.
Other fire department property, including vehicles, would be conveyed to the county, by title when appropriate, with the county to have full rights to utilize all available fire protection equipment.
Vehicles would revert back to city ownership when taken out of service by the county.
All Freeport Fire Department employees meeting Walton County requirements would be hired by the county. Those not meeting county requirements due to deficiency in training or certification would be provided with the opportunity to obtain that training or certification, with the county paying their costs.
In the past, funding has been furnished by the county to the Freeport Fire Department in order to assist the FFD in providing fire rescue services in surrounding unincorporated areas. With the tentative terms, county funding to the FFD would continue through the first quarter of the 2013-14 fiscal year (through December) only.
Jones told the commissioners that these tentative terms would require the consent of the Freeport City Council. He said that, upon that approval being granted, he would bring an agreement to the BCC for final approval.