Chatham Co. Emergency Services holds first special public meeting for fire protection services

Published: Jun. 29, 2022 at 11:17 PM EDT
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CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - Chatham County Emergency Services had their first special-called public meeting for fire protection services Wednesday night.

This follows last month’s vote to make unincorporated Chatham County residents pay a fire fee after coming up millions of dollars short over the years.

Chatham EMS’ board of directors voted to amend the previous bylaws.

That was the main source of frustration for many residents because they thought the bylaws required a majority vote from residents who pay the fee.

With the new bylaws, they feel the power is being taken away from them.

“Why is the board of directors proposing to eliminate all members and members rights?”

“This proposal will eliminate all member voting rights and it would allow the board to re-appoint itself all power to appoint except the three county positions.”

“We’re all volunteers with zero compensation on this. You’ve had your time to speak, I’m the president of the board and I’m going to respond,” said the president of Chatham EMS’ board of directors, Timothy Blanco.

“It seems funny that you can go into this and do this when you need our votes to do it, but you do it anyway. Basically, if we say no or yes...it’s gonna happen.”

The 2018 Bylaws stated they can be amended by a majority vote of members present or voting by proxy at an annual or special meeting.

There were 2,900 members who voted ‘yes’ by proxy and 224 who voted ‘no’. This means they were mailed a card with a letter explaining the proposed change in bylaws and they mailed it in with their response.

The amended bylaws say they can be changed by two thirds of the directors present and effective by a majority vote of the membership.

They also appointed a county commissioner and two citizens as board members.

Some residents also disagreed with the required fire fee for unincorporated Chatham residents.

“I believe the board’s decision to enter into a contract before they have permission from the membership is inappropriate.”

“There’s been a discussion at every single county district town hall called and published regarding this issue. This has been debated in the public for over two years. We’re at the point where it’s at the finish line. We’ve been through the wringer on this, we’ve discussed this at nauseam. There’s not another model in the U.S. that’s remotely similar to this,” said Blanco.

There was also some confusion from residents about how the county is assessing the fire fee for each household. If you have any questions about the fee structure, you can find answers on their website.

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