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Staff photo by Erin O. Smith / Catoosa County Chairman Steven Henry, center, speaks during the opening of a work session Monday, July 31, 2017, at the Catoosa County Colonnade in Ringgold, Ga. The Catoosa County Commission, Ringgold City Council and Fort Oglethorpe City Council held an Intergovernmental Work Session to discuss how to divide sales tax revenue, the state of the county jail and more.
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Prior to accepting the job of Catoosa County Fire Chief, Randy Camp worked for 15 years as the chief of neighboring Walker County.

RINGGOLD, Ga. — Catoosa County commissioners pushed back a vote on a new fire station this week because they don't know where to put it.

Commission Chairman Steven Henry is not sure the county can simply rebuild Fire Station 2 at its current location, on the south end of the county at 25 East Nickajack Road. Chief Randy Camp wants to staff that station around the clock, as opposed to its current set-up, with firefighters onsite only during the daytime.

With a new station, builders will install showers. But there is no sewer in that area. Henry said the fire station will require a field line, which can run water into the ground. To do that, though, you need enough space. The average home requires a field line of about 300 feet.

The problem? Fire Station 2 is on a tiny plot of land: about a quarter of an acre. The commissioners do not believe they can squeeze enough field line into that area.

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Staff photo by Doug Strickland / Alicia Vaughn sits with her family during a Catoosa County Commission meeting at the Catoosa County administrative building on Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, in Ringgold, Ga. Commissioners voted unanimously to donate about 5 acres of land to the Catoosa County Board of Education.

On Tuesday, Camp presented architectural bids for work on a new fire station to the commissioners. He suggested the cheapest bid, from KCP Architects, which would cost about $31,650. The commissioners then voted to table the discussion, saying they needed more time to think about the project — most importantly, where they actually want to put the fire station.

"This is the first I'd heard of this," Commissioner Bobby Winters said. "I'd like to know a little bit more about it."

Said Henry: "We had discussed it sort of in passing in the past but never got serious about it. It was a little bit of a surprise that it came back that quick."

Camp actually floated the idea earlier this year, when department heads met with the commissioners to discuss how they would like to spend money from the 2019 special purpose local option sales tax fund. SPLOST is a 1 percent burden at the cash register, with money designated for capital projects. Voters have to approve it every five years, which residents of Catoosa County did in May. The latest fund will take effect next year.

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Commissioner Steve Henry, center, speaks next to fellow commissioners Jim Cutler, left, and Bobby Winters during a Catoosa County Commission meeting at the Catoosa County administrative building on Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, in Ringgold, Ga. Commissioners voted unanimously to donate about 5 acres of land to the Catoosa County Board of Education.

After his discussion with commissioners, Camp said he also talked about the project with Interim County Manager Carl Henson about a month ago. He said Henson gave him the OK to move forward with the project. He met with prospective architectural firms over the last couple of weeks.

"It's my fault I guess," he told the Times Free Press on Thursday, when asked about the confusion with the elected officials.

Henry and Commissioner Jim Cutler, who made the motion to table the discussion, said they weren't sure yet when the item will come back for a vote. They want to meet with Camp first. They have not scheduled a meeting as of Thursday.

Camp said he thought the fire station would go on a property across the street from Fire Station 2, land the county already owns that now houses a walking track. Camp believes the fire station can go in the middle of the track.

Henry said that spot makes sense, and the commissioners have considered it for a new Fire Station 2 location in the past. Still, they want to consider other potential sites before signing off on an architect.

Camp said he wants to build Fire Station 2 using money from the 2014 SPLOST fund, which has collected about $40.3 million for the county since August 2014. Of that money, about $1.7 million is designated for fire and rescue buildings, based on an agreement among the commissioners before voters approved of the tax.

Of that $1.7 million, Camp said he spent about $725,000 on renovations on Fire Station 3, which commissioners approved in January. That fire station is in the Graysville community. That leaves about $1 million left in the fund, about $200,000-$300,000 short of what Camp needs for Fire Station 2.

But the county is collecting about $34,000 a month for fire and rescue buildings through the 2014 SPLOST, which expires next summer. Based on that projection, he will have enough money for the project. Or, at least, he will be close.

According to a proposal from one architectural firm, Fire Station 2 will be about 7,200 square feet, with metal exterior walls. The building would include sleeping quarters, showers, lockers, a kitchen, a laundry room, offices, a living room and three bays for fire trucks.

New county manager

Commissioners also voted to approve a contract for Alicia Vaughn, who will make $125,000 a year as the new Catoosa County manager. She is now Whitfield County's chief financial officer and will replace Jim Walker, who resigned in February.

Vaughn's employment here begins Sept. 24, and her contract runs for four years. The contract includes a clause that says she will not receive a severance package if she resigns or if the commission fires her with cause, such as violating provisions of the county's personnel policy. That clause comes after Walker received $54,000 in severance, even though he resigned.

If the commissioners fire her without cause, according to the contract, Vaughn would receive a lump sum of six months' salary, plus any accrued paid time off.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.

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