UPDATE: The Fort Oglethorpe City Council voted to merge the city's fire department with Catoosa County on Monday night.

The vote on the resolution was unanimous.

This means that Catoosa County will be responsible for all fire services within the city of Fort Oglethorpe.

The merger also means losing longtime firefighters.

According to the contract for the merger, “all staff and employees of the City Fire Department, who are not transferred and absorbed in other departments of the City as City employees shall be terminated as employees of the City (whether through retirement, reduction in force, elimination of job duties or other lawful method as determined by the City, in its discretion).”

The agreement goes on to say all full-time employees will be offered a position with the county’s fire department, which leaves part-time employees without a job.

However, the city's 2020 budget shows that would have happened regardless.

Stay with the WRCB app for updates to this developing story.


PREVIOUS STORY: The city of Fort Oglethorpe may soon say goodbye to its fire department.

During a meeting Tuesday night, the Catoosa County commission unanimously voted to consolidate the fire protection services, which means the county will be responsible for all fire services within the city of Fort Oglethorpe.

Chairman Steven Henry tells Channel 3 the move is great for the entire county.

“Once people see there’s not any changes, I think it will be okay,” he said. “The county is our responsibility and that includes Fort Oglethorpe. We want to do what’s best for the entire community and I think this is that.”

Fort Oglethorpe Fire Chief Bruce Ballew declined to comment on the agreement, citing he is protecting his firefighters by not sharing his opinion. However, the part-time chief said, “for the first time in 53 years I will be without a job.”

City manager Jennifer Payne-Simpkins says this is not a new concept. She says the city and county have discussed merging fire services for years, but the details on how it would happened were never discussed. The city has entered in intergovernmental agreements with the county since 1993. In March 2011, the city agreed to continue providing fire services to allow the county time to prepare for how the city will reduce services.

“The county in August of this year adopted a budget that eliminated that $175,000 that they paid us for providing fire service to unincorporated Catoosa County so that really what the catalyst that started the conversation,” said Payne-Simpkins.

Payne-Simpkins says accepting the deal could save the city about one million dollars annually. However, officials have not decided where that money would be redistributed. There have been discussions of hiring more police officers and funding other public safety services. It would also require handing over all city-owned fire property to the county, which includes the fire station buildings.

But the deal means losing longtime firefighters.

According to the contract, “all staff and employees of the City Fire Department, who are not transferred and absorbed in other departments of the City as City employees shall be terminated as employees of the City (whether through retirement, reduction in force, elimination of job duties or other lawful method as determined by the City, in its discretion).”

The agreement goes on to say all full-time employees will be offered a position with the county’s fire department, which leave part-time employees without a job. However, the city's 2020 budget shows that would have happened regardless.

“That [budget] proposed closing station 8 because the county no longer needs our services that can cover it and providing only service out of station 1 and hiring nine additional full-time staff and eliminating all part-time and volunteers,” Payne-Simpkins explained. “It's really unfortunate. I don't know that there is a silver bullet answer to all of those situations,” Payne-Simpkins said.

Fort Oglethorpe city council members will vote to adopt the agreement Monday, November 11.