Camden County will hire six new firefighters, add an ambulance and close two fire stations, all to carry out the recommendations of an independent efficiency study conducted last year.
The study by International City/County Management Association turned up some redundancies in fire coverage between Kingsland and the county while finding that a fourth emergency zone was needed to serve the south end of the county where 80 percent of the calls originate.
Tuesday night’s unanimous vote gives County Fire Rescue Chief Mark Crews $300,000 in personnel funding to make the changes.
The county will close its stations on Gross Road and Harriett’s Bluff Road, and Kingsland, which has stations nearby, will begin handling fire calls in those areas. Crews will then shift the trucks from Gross Road and Harriett’s Bluff Road to other areas of the county where they are needed.
St. Marys will house the new ambulance and its crew at its Colerain Road station.
St. Marys Fire Chief Robert Horton said he, Crews and Kingsland Fire Chief Morris Peeples would have liked to have put all the proposed changes into effect July 1 but could not without the linchpin, the creation of the new EMS zone for the south end of the county.
The County Commission also authorized Crews to sign leases with Kingsland for the use of its two ambulances. Kingsland still operates its own ambulances, but city officials have said they want to stop providing the service.
Adding Kingsland’s ambulances will give the county a total of nine, three of which will be in reserve.
“We already have two reserves,” Crews said, “but adding another zone means we should have three in reserve.”
County Manager Steve Howard said he will submit a plan to pay for the new hires in coming weeks, but the closure of the two stations and other efficiency savings from the cooperation between the three fire departments will offset some of the costs.