MOULTRIE -- The Colquitt County Volunteer Firefighter's Association and the Moultrie Fire Department are considering sharing personnel.

The idea, which has met with a mixed response, is for both departments to share three city employees jointly funded by the local governments.

The VFA has yet to hire a coordinator since Gerald Psalmond retired at the end of last year. VFA President Billy Glass indicated that the VFA budget would not allow them to hire a qualified person to fill that critical spot, despite the county agreeing to pitch in $40,000 for the coming fiscal year for personnel.

Instead of hiring a coordinator, the job would be split between a training officer, a public education officer and a secretary, he said.

"It would be a big change from what we have been used to doing," Glass acknowledged, but added that volunteer department chiefs were generally warm to the change.

"The way I see it, it can be very positive," he said. "If the association votes to continue to try to put this together, then I don't see any reservation as far as taking away their individuality or being dictated to by the city or anything like that. ... I think it could be very positive for both city and county taxpayers."

Glass cannot pinpoint a downfall to the idea, but "if it doesn't work, we'll try another avenue on this," he said.

Moultrie Fire Chief Ken Hannon isn't sure if the proposed restructuring has been tried elsewhere, but he believes it would benefit the community.

"I think it would work real well. It's something we've never tried before and it's something the volunteers have never tried before," Hannon said.

It's change, he said, and some people are skeptical of that.

"I think it could be a very positive thing in the future. We would really like to work closely with the volunteer fire association," Hannon said.

In the past decade to 15 years, the VFA has evolved into a force of 155 trained firefighters divided into 15 departments responding to more than 1,500 calls per year, Glass said.

County residents have enjoyed a reduction in their homeowner's insurance premiums as a result of the volunteers' hard work and the development of the departments' capabilities. By the end of the year, Glass expects to see insurance ratings to improve even more. The shared services could further improve the insurance ratings for both the city and the county, Hannon said.

Not everyone is for the change. At Thursday night's county budget meeting, Commissioner Billy Herndon said he wouldn't support the proposal.

"I'm just scared when the City of Moultrie Fire Department tries to tell county volunteers what to do, it ain't going to work," Herndon said.

The county currently is considering budgeting $40,000 for personnel but will not mandate how the money should be spent. Herndon thinks the VFA could hire a qualified coordinator with the county's allocation.

The city council will hear the detailed proposal Tuesday. The proposal comes before the entire volunteer firefighter association for a vote July 14.

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