The Saline County Board and area fire departments have devised a plan for response to fire calls in the county, a plan necessitated by Harrisburg City Council's action to limit calls outside the city limits as of July 1.
Harrisburg Council voted in December of 2012 after July 1 it will respond for mutual aid calls to other departments only when those other departments are responding to calls within their own city limits.
Roger Craig, chairman of the county board's fire committee, passed out colored maps showing the new zones of fire response. The county — excepting Harrisburg — will be covered by Galatia, Eldorado, Carrier Mills, Stonefort and Equality. Some more highly populated regions will be covered by two departments, whichever is most able to respond.
The Harco area will be covered by both Galatia and Carrier Mills departments, the Big Ridge and Cottage Grove areas will be covered by both Eldorado and Equality and an area of both Independence and Mountain Townships including Whitesville and Rudement will be covered by both Carrier Mills and Equality. The majority of Mountain Township will be covered by Equality Fire Department.
All the departments will be charging $2,000 for a county fire call, Craig said.
Craig said most people in the county out of Harrisburg's current response zone will not see a change.
"There is little to no difference, except Harrisburg would not be serving anyone outside its city limits," Craig said.
Craig said all the department chiefs are "gung ho ready to go" and Saline County E-911 is ready for the change if Harrisburg sticks to its plan.
Large maps of the new zone will be distributed to Saline County Central Dispatch and to each of the fire departments.
Danny Gibbs of the board's industrial committee introduced a proposal of the City of Harrisburg to improve Frank Leberman Drive south to the Route 13 Connector, and Ford street east to Peoples National Bank. Those streets could be built by the city on county property dedicated to the city so that tax increment finance district money could be used. In exchange the city asks for five acres of land just south of Route 13 Connector — near the American Legion — currently owned by the county.
The county cannot afford to build the roads on its land so that there might be development.
The agreement would allow both entities to develop properties in the north end of Harrisburg.
"To me, as an intergovernmental agreement, we can't lose. It's probably the best thing that could happen to the county," Gibbs said.
Ron Fearheiley of the Harrisburg council said the city agrees it would be a mutually beneficial move.
"We feel it would help you and us both in the future. It would open things up," Fearheiley said.
Page 2 of 2 - Fearheiley said he would like to see the streets completed this construction season.
The county board approved drawing up a contract between the two entities.
Gibbs also proposed the sale of half a parking lot between Poplar Street and Locust Street — across the street from Morello's Pizza and Grill — to the highest bidder. He said only two county employees park on it, it is in a state of disrepair with potholes and Scott Stout, owner of the new Wooded Hills Bar and Grill opening on Poplar Street has expressed an interest in buying it. He said upon purchasing it Stout intends to blacktop and permit the county and Morello's to continue using it.
Gibbs reasoned that patrons of the two businesses would be using the parking lot, anyway, and the county would be free of any liability should there be an accident.
Gibbs had the support of Joe Jackson and Jeff Murrie, but other board members were vehemently opposed.
"I will stand here and jump up and down to retain that county property," Bob Oglesby said.
Oglesby said with downtown parking areas at a premium, the county cannot afford to give up a parking lot over which it has control.
Gibbs, Jackson and Murrie voted yes on Gibbs' motion to auction the property and eight other board members — Karla Carrigan, was absent — voted no and the motion failed.
Treasurer Danny Ragan said the county's budget is in deficit by about $40,000 in Feburary. The state owes the county $200,000, he said.
"We're living paycheck to paycheck. We don't really have much to look forward to," Ragan said.
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