Polk voters turn down county’s paid-volunteer fire plan
Issue could go before county commission in coming year
Polk County manager Matt Denton is figuring out the next step for officials to take following the failure of the Paid/ Volunteer Fire Plan to pass in the general election.
The plan that would have reorganized fire stations in Polk County and phased in paid firefighters at every station failed to pass on the ballot on Nov. 4 by just 26 votes, such a slim margin that Denton is unsure what to do next about the plan.
“It didn’t pass, but there was no clear majority of people saying no or yes,” he said. “The commission is just going to have to put their minds together and see what the next step is.”
Voters defeated the ballot measure in a 2,875 to 2,849 contest, with votes at Polk County’s seven precincts narrow throughout. No ballots took the majority at Blooming Grove 298-242, at Fish Creek 478-442, at Lake Creek 539-450 and at Young’s Grove 351-275. Aragon residents supported the measure 432 to 342, in Cedartown 461434 and Rockmart 547433.
He was shocked by the election tallies once they came in on Nov. 4.
“I thought it would either pass or fail significantly,” he said.
Denton said with the margin of defeat so close, the plan might come back up through the county Board of Commissioners.
According to the state Constitution, county commissioners can bring the plan back to life by creating a special service district just inside the county for the fire department. It would not have to go back before voters for the county to set up the district, and would only require its proposal and approval at a commission meeting.
He said he was unsure if the commission will be willing to take up the issue at the beginning of the coming year, but said its entirely possible.
No matter what happens with the fire plan, Denton said action will be needed to prevent future problems.
“One thing is for sure: something has to be done in the near future to preserve fire protection in the county,” he said. “I just don’t know what right now.”