Railroads, firefighter safety, property ownership and the county's finances were all topics dealt with during last week's meeting of the Catoosa County Board of Commissioners.
Clearing Railroad crossings
Traffic jams at railroad crossings may become a thing of the past if county leaders adopt an ordinance that could impose fines when trains block intersections for more than 10 minutes.
"We've tried to work with the railroads," County Attorney Chad Young said.
Young presented an ordinance, modeled on one enacted in Dade County, that fines railroad companies whenever their trains stop while crossing public roads. Exemptions would be made if accidents or mechanical problems prompted the blockage.
"It makes it difficult for safety crews to get to some areas of the county," Commission Chairman Keith Greene said.
Councilman Jim Cutler pointed out that one railroad crossing in the district he represents, where the CSX line crosses Graysville Road at Chickamauga Creek, is notorious for delays of more than half an hour.
Young said the new law allows deputies to cite the train's conductor for violations, with each 10 minutes that the road is blocked counting as a separate infraction.
Firefighters get gear
After adopting a railroad crossing ordinance aimed at making citizens safer, the commission moved to improve the safety and efficiency of its firefighters.
Fire Chief Chuck Nichols asked, and was given approval, to apply for a federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant that would provide for the training and equipping of firefighters.
Nichols said the department will apply for a grant totaling $200,000. Of that, the county would provide 20 percent of the total which could be as much as $40,000, which would come from the 2009 SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax).
Not only did the commissioners grant Nichols' request to pursue the grant to purchase gear, they also approved the purchase of five Ford F250 trucks from Brooker Ford of Dalton.
Currently, county firefighters rely on a mishmash of vehicles considered surplus by other departments or that have been confiscated through the court system.
"This will be a first time purchase for the county," the chief said.
One of the four-wheel drive trucks will be used for firefighter training and the other four will serve as command vehicles. As such, they will bring additional supplies and communication gear to the scene of major incidents and can be used to haul equipment or boat trailers.
Nichols said responses to floods and a tornado have made the department more conscious of the need for such resupply and mobile command capabilities.
The total purchase price, including all necessary equipment save for application of fire department logos, of $233,628 will be paid with proceeds from the SPLOST referendum of 2009.
Cobb Parkway part of fort oglethorpe
One of the last items involving the partnership between the county government, its economic development authority and the municipalities that led to Costco coming to Catoosa County was tended to by the commissioners.
Ownership of Cobb Parkway, the road named after former Fort Oglethorpe Mayor Ronnie Cobb that serves the Costco site, was transferred to that city.
Cobb was instrumental in bringing the retail giant to the city he served but died a few months before Costco opened its local store on Oct. 27, 2010.
County Attorney Chad Young reminded commissioners that the road, while built by the county, had been constructed to Fort Oglethorpe's standards.
"This will transfer maintenance to the city," Young said.
Commissioner Bobby Winters, whose district includes the road that is situated near the intersection of Cloud Springs and Scruggs roads, questioned the need to transfer the road to the city.
"Just leave it alone," he said.
Commission Chairman Keith Greene asked if there was any compelling reason to oppose the transfer and that if it did not take place the county would be liable for maintenance of the road.
Commissioners Greene, Cutler and Jeff Long voted in favor of the transfer while Winters' was the sole vote against the move (Commissioner DeWayne Hill was absent).
Good news regarding revenue
The trend of steady growth in sales tax collections continued during June, according to a report given by Chief Financial Officer Carl Henson.
Local Option Sales Tax receipts were about 7.8 percent better than during the previous 12-month period.
Henson pointed out that the tornado of April 2011 led to some very sizable swings in spending - and tax collections - as rebuilding efforts got under way.
Collections of SPLOST are "$600,000 favorable for the same 12-month period but lower than for the same month last year," he said.
Similar drops in monthly revenue can be expected through the summer, Henson said, adding that the overall picture created by a longer time frame gives a better indicator of the county's financial condition.