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|Vidalia fire department continues upgrades|
To maintain the city's current insurance rating of 3, the Vidalia Town Council approved the hiring of three new firefighters Tuesday night at the regular meeting.
According to Fire Chief Jack Langston, the rating review period is approaching and continued new construction in Vidalia, both commercial and residential, required the personnel addition.
Langston said one of the new hires -- Matthew B. Taunton is fully certified as an firefighter/EMT and is on the job. The two additional men, Bill K. Morgan and Michael D. Currie, are the first trainees that will be certified at the Vidalia Fire Department Training Center.
The two probationary firefighters took part in the training center's first controlled live burn scenario Tuesday at the facility located on J. Logan Sewell Drive.
The facility consists of a burn building, classroom and a covered shed for outside training.
Langston said hopefully construction will begin in the next two weeks on a structure built like a house with removal walls for search and rescue training.
"It goes on from there and we are currently searching for grant money for a complete manufactured setup which will include a drill tower, burn facility -- the whole nine yards," said Langston.
Langston said he also feels that the cost benefit will be seen by the city in the long run.
"We usually spend about $4,000 per man plus other expenses," he said. "As of right now -- three to four weeks into the training, we have spent only $500."
The center will also allow the department to provide ongoing training to maintain the town's fire rating status.
"We are currently have a fire rating of 3 and are always working to lower that," he said. "In order to do that, you have required training each month and numerous drills plus hazardous material training, driving training -- it's a never ending cycle for us."
The department, counting the new hires, has 18 employees (six per shift).
Captain Tim Vanier, Training Officer, is leading the training and conducting the rookie classes daily at the new training center for the estimated 10 to 12 week period.
Upon completion, they will be certified to respond to hazardous materials incidents, fire fighting incidents, and respond to medical emergencies as first responders.
In other business, the Vidalia Town Council authorized advertisement for bids for debris disposal from hurricanes Katrina, Gustav and Ike.
Lee Staggs said the debris continues to pile up and the bid process is necessary to receive federal reimbursement from FEMA. He added that the Environmental Protection Agency has issued the necessary burn permit and the funding is for burn equipment.
Staggs also requested that the board authorize disposal of the town's old vehicles for scrap metal. He said all of the 14 vehicles were deemed of no value beyond scrap.
"We have robbed Peter to pay Paul and have used every possible part from these vehicles," said Staggs.
The board approved the action.
Also approved was the replacement of rock on the Mississippi River bank in front of the Vidalia Conference and Convention Center lost in last spring's floods.
The council passed a resolution to prefile applications for grants for sewer upgrades with the DEQ for the project to be placed on the state priority list.
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