A steering committee last week presented Dunwoody’s City Council with a cost outline for a new fire department.
Between $6,229,752 and $6,475,528 is needed to pay for a ground-up operation, according to the committee’s memo.
The city currently gets emergency services from DeKalb County, which receives funds from Dunwoody through millage rate tax revenue.
An increase in these rates, from 2.54 mills to a range of 2.71 to 2.82 mills, will be needed to finance a new fire department, the study revealed.
A cause of concern, as mentioned in the memo, is that the county does not have a Dunwoody-specific response team.
Several residents have complained of inconsistent emergency response rates, prompting Mayor Ken Wright to request a review of all emergency services received from the county, including the 911 center, in May.
Initial findings from the 911 center review, released in June, touted the idea of dropping the county and sharing a center with a neighboring municipality. Building a new center, it was revealed, would cost Dunwoody residents more in taxes.
Last week’s memo revisited the same ideas, as well as a Dunwoody response unit provided by the county. Doing so, concluded the report, would mean “no need to pursue litigation or prove a deficiency of service.”
Shedding doubt on this arrangement, however, was an acknowledgement that “current staffing levels at DeKalb may be less than ideal” as recent news articles have quoted Public Safety Director William Miller saying DeKalb will need to “add more staff, including 45 more 911 operators and 12 supervisors.”
The expense of creating a department from the ground up could make refining the current agreement more desirable.
“[A new fire department]…will require extensive capital costs and additional personnel necessary for a standalone fire department. For capital purchases, we anticipate approximately $6 million in fire engines and other vehicles. This would likely be financed through a GMA lease over 10 years with an annual cost of approximately $635, 000,” concluded the memo.
Using the current infrastructure as a platform for a new department is not feasible, said the report. County-owned stations in the Dunwoody area are not centrally enough located. Therefore the expense would include land purchases and construction costs.
The timeline for the city council to decide has not been set. Under the terms of its contract with the county, Dunwoody must give six months notice if it intends to go elsewhere.