Harlem officials united Columbia County's four fire departments under the county umbrella Monday when they signed an interim agreement to continue providing fire protection to unincorporated areas.
"Like I said before, it's not something we are thrilled about, but it's something we can live with," Harlem Mayor Scott Dean said at Monday's city council meeting.
Harlem was the last of the county's four private departments to sign on as a fire-service contractor for the county. Funds will be collected through property tax bills and distributed to the departments by the county rather than from subscription payments directly to the departments.
With all departments on board, county officials can finalize plans for 1-cent sales tax funds to go on the ballot in July. Projects will include new fire stations and trucks for the unincorporated areas outside Harlem and Grovetown and in the Leah-Appling-Winfield area, said Pam Tucker, the director of the county's Emergency Services Division.
"We're ready to go, get stations up and get trucks out there," Mrs. Tucker said. She added that agreements with the Martinez and North Columbia departments will be amended to share the Dec. 31 expiration date with Harlem and Grovetown.
Negotiations will begin in June for the more permanent contract that will pick up when the agreement expires, Mrs. Tucker said.
Reach Valerie Rowell at (706) 868-1222, ext. 110, or firstname.lastname@example.org.