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Residents' concerns include carts, slow fire response times

The county's fire and rescue chief says the addition of 12 paid staff members should help.

Although the tone was mostly positive, participants in a county-sponsored "town meeting" Thursday also raised a variety of issues that included rogue shopping carts and dangerously slow fire response times.

"I recently had a friend who fainted in front of me and died on the way to the hospital of a heart attack," said Bill Christie, president of the Countryway Homeowners Association.

"I called the fire department, but they would not have made it in time. It was then that I found out that our fire department was not nationally accredited because of slow response time."

It is a time of change for the Town 'N Country fire department, a once-volunteer operation that the county is shoring up with paid staff.

County Fire and Rescue Chief William Nesmith told the audience that the county assumed control of Town 'N Country station 31 on Dec. 20. The county added 12 paid employees, including three captains, three drivers and six paramedics, to the volunteer staff already in place. Nesmith said he expects the added staff to speed up response time at a cost of $700,000 a year from county taxes.

County commissioners, who come to these meetings once a year, were greeted by 100 residents.

Some complained about shopping carts that are being taken from area grocery stores and abandoned in neighborhoods. Commissioner Stacey Easterling said she was working with the sheriff's office to solve the problem.

"In other areas, grocery store owners have chipped in to hire a third party to pick up the carts," Easterling said. "We're looking into doing that."