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Posted by on July 24, 2012.

Dunwoody interested in opening fire department

The city of Dunwoody is considering starting its own fire department.

At the city council’s July 23 meeting, Councilman Terry Nall asked the city manager to revisit a 2010 study into the feasibility of Dunwoody breaking ties with DeKalb County to operate its own fire and EMS services.

Nall said there are several factors that made him want to explore the city’s fire and EMS options.

“All these things have been brewing,” he said. “It reminded me how much we’re not in control.”

DeKalb County recently raised the tax rate for the Fire Prevention District to 3.29 mills, Nall said, which is 22 percent higher than last year.

Fire coverage is also an issue, Nall said. He would like for the city to have more control over the location and number of fire and rescue service units in Dunwoody. DeKalb County recently pulled the Rescue 12 unit from Roberts Drive for use in another part of the county, he said.

Nall said he recognizes that DeKalb has to manage their resources over a large area, whereas the City Council is focused only on the city limits of Dunwoody.

“Our looking at this is not an indictment of DeKalb County,” Nall said. “They’re doing the best they can with the resources they have.”

In this video: Watch the July 23 Dunwoody City Council meeting.

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Nall asked City Manager Warren Hutmacher to review options for fire marshal service as well — something City Councilman John Heneghan also requested earlier this year. Currently, Dunwoody sends all construction and special event plans to Decatur for review.

The ongoing delays in implementing a computer aided dispatch connection between Dunwoody’s private 911 service provider, ChatComm, and DeKalb County has also been a frustration, Nall said.

Hutmacher updated the council on the progress of installing the CAD to CAD interface, which would seamlessly dispatch fire and emergency calls answered by ChatComm to DeKalb County. Currently, Fire and EMS calls are answered by ChatComm and then transferred to a DeKalb County call taker before dispatch, causing a small delay.

Terry Nall

Terry Nall

Hutmacher said there are still some kinks that need to be worked out before the system is ready to operate. Dunwoody officials initially believed the system would be complete when Dunwoody switched over to Chat Comm in October, but technical problems and coordination issues between the multiple parties involved have caused delays.

Hutmacher said the CAD to CAD system is likely to exceed $75,000 when it is complete.

“I think we’re toward the end. We just don’t what date that’s going to be,” Hutmacher said.

Hutmacher said though the current system in place is the national standard used by many surrounding jurisdictions, CAD to CAD would improve response times and is a worthwhile effort.

“I’m sorry it has taken eight months and longer and probably $30,0000 to $40,000 more than we expected,” Hutmacher said.

Councilman Doug Thompson said the troubles with the CAD to CAD system illustrate the need for Dunwoody to have its own fire services.

“The tough part we’ve got is we’re dealing with Chat Comm and DeKalb 911 and we can’t control either one,” Thompson said. “The ultimate way to solve this is to bring the fire department to Dunwoody.”

He echoed Nall’s concerns about raising costs with DeKalb County.

“The city of Dunwoody doesn’t raise taxes. DeKalb County does. Will the taxpayers be better served with DeKalb over the next 20 years or will they be better served with us? We can solve this problem.”

Mayor Mike Davis agreed.

“I’m looking forward to hearing the analysis of what it would take to have a Dunwoody Fire Department,” he said.

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