Clay weighs Fire-Rescue merger

Green Cove council votes for it



By Nin-Hai Tseng
Times-Union staff writer

GREEN COVE SPRINGS -- To save money and provide around-the-clock fire-rescue services to Green Cove Springs residents, city officials have urged merging its fire department with the county's.

The Green Cove Springs City Council on Tuesday night voted 4-1 for its agency to join the Clay County Fire-Rescue Department. The city's proposal will be presented to the County Commission at its Tuesday meeting to be considered for a vote.

"If the city of Green Cove Springs needs our help, then I think we should help our neighboring municipality," County Commissioner Christy Fitzgerald said.

The merge will be modest. Green Cove Springs has two full-time firefighters who work five days a week, City Manager Don Bowles said. Former Fire Chief Richard Knoff recently resigned to work for Clay County Fire-Rescue. The agency's 16 volunteers handle the remaining days. They are paid by the city for each call answered.

Bowles said the city's proposal would transfer the full-timers to the county agency. Volunteers who are interested in working full-time will be considered for employment.

The merger would save the city between $150,000 to $200,000 a year in personnel and equipment costs, Bowles said. The change also would provide more efficient and flexible services to residents.

"It's a win-win situation," Councilwoman Virginia Hall said.

Mayor Richard Hobbs was the only member to oppose the switch. He said he has nothing against the county, it's just "a personal opinion."

In Clay County, rescue services are provided countywide, but fire services are provided by the respective municipality.

Staff writer Nin-Hai Tseng can be reached at (904) 278-9487, Ext. 12, or via e-mail at ntsengjacksonville.com.