Firefighters, like police and EMS personnel, are ready to answer calls at all hours of the day or night, no matter if it is the weekend or holidays. For volunteer firefighters, it can be especially difficult. Most have paid, 8-hour a day jobs they work to support their families, then after they get home they spend precious time in training meetings, plus know that at any hour of the day or night they could get called out on a fire, accident, medical call, or another emergency. Support of firefighters is critical, and at the October 12 meeting of the Yatesville City Council, Yatesville Volunteer Fire Department Chief Billy Lee took a moment to recognize two longtime faithful supporters of the department. Council member Wanda Dozier was absent.
“ There are a whole lot of people in this community that will do anything for you, and they’ll stand behind the fire department,” Lee said. “You don’t know what it is like to get up at 2 a.m. in the morning to go fight a fire, get home at 4:30 or 5 a.m., take a shower, and then go to work. The majority of time, after you get off work, you go back and clean up what you left to go to work for. Or you just miss a day of work. Holidays, birthdays, weekends; a couple of years ago, down off Logtown Road, we spent Christmas Eve on a structure fire. Christmas Day, we told everyone with kids to go home. The rest of us stayed down there.
“But I want to say thank you to two people. I know there are a whole lot more, but over the years, they were here whenever I started. It would be Mr. Johnny Long and Vance Mullins. I don’t know how many times Vance closed his store to go to a fire, or to come out and help us, or to open the store and bring us water. I don’t know if everybody knows Mr. Johnny, but you can call him at any time. They’re not as much active in the fire part now, but they’re wide open on the support side and the auxiliary side, and they’ve helped us here lately. I just want everybody to know that. It’s not only fighting fires. There’s a whole lot more that you can do on the support side that takes a lot off of us.”
Also at the meeting, Chief Lee asked the city’s permission to install a radio antenna on top of the city’s water tank. The Upson County Board of Commissioners has approved SPLOST funding to help pay to improve radio transmissions between the county’s volunteer fire departments. Lee said part of that plan is the installation of an antenna on the water tank.
“If everything goes right, we’d like to ask permission to put a radio antenna on the water tank. We’d like to replace the repeater on Higgins Mountain, because right now, our radios work maybe a quarter of the time,” Lee said. “The repeater that is on the mountain is an old repeater that came from the City of Thomaston years ago.
“Part of the SPLOST that we’re looking in for the radios is replacing that repeater on the mountain and putting what’s called voting comparators here, one at Thurston, and hopefully one down Highway 19 toward Salem. What it would do is turn this 5-watt walkie-talkie into a 125-watt radio, and we would be able to talk to each other.
“I talked to the contractor who has the maintenance on the water tank and I talked to the contractor who would be installing all of the antennas for the radio shop. The tank maintenance guy said he did not have a problem with the way the radio guy wanted to install the antenna. It would be an antenna on the water tank, a cable dropped down beside one of the legs, and then there would be a box mounted out there that holds the two radios that receive and transmit. All of that would be paid by SPLOST.
“We would have to hook it to a power source. This is where our costs come in, and I was told it would cost us between $3 and $5 a month for power. That would be the only cost to the city.
Following discussion, Council member Shane Moore made a motion to approve installation of the antenna on the water tank and the cost of running power to the system. Council member Ronnie Riggins seconded the motion, and it was approved, 4-0.
Finally, Mayor Cecil Moncrief wanted to make it clear that the City of Yatesville has not purchased $65,000 worth of extrication equipment for the fire department. Those funds came from the county SPLOST funds designated for the fire departments, similar to the funds being used to improve the radio system. It just happened to all be delivered to Yatesville.
“I want to clarify something that I’ve heard,” Moncrief said. “The city did not spend $65,000 on any extrication equipment. There were four sets of extrication equipment. It got delivered to Yatesville. Every department that was getting a set was present and picked theirs up. SPLOST paid for that. I think each set was $17,500. So we didn’t pay that; the fire department didn’t pay that. That came out of the SPLOST.
“We did buy stabilizers, and the county SPLOST is also going to reimburse us for those. So I just want to clarify that we have not spent $65,000 for extrication equipment.
“I just want you to know, and I’m not telling you how to vote,” he added, “but if it wasn’t for the SPLOST, this stuff you would not have. Just consider that. But I just wanted to make it known that we did not spend the money on this stuff. It came out of the county SPLOST funds that were approved for the fire departments in 2011.
“I want to hand it to Ronnie, Billy and Shane,” Moncrief continued. “The county went back and forth as far as what qualifies and what doesn’t qualify. If you listened to the radio and read the newspapers, you’ve found out it has been a seesaw battle. I think some people finally just had enough, and I’ll give credit to Ralph Ellington. He and Alonzo Wilder jumped in there and pushed this thing. They had a lot of meetings with the chiefs, I went to a few of the meetings, and they got that thing rolling, and this is coming out of the SPLOST.”
Larry Stanford may be reached at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @LarryStanford7.