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Staff photo by Erin O. Smith / Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Jennifer Simpkins speaks 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.

Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Jennifer Payne-Simpkins on Tuesday announced her resignation.

Payne-Simpkins was unavailable for immediate comment, but one employee said her resignation is effective Dec. 1.

The announcement comes one day after the Fort Oglethorpe City Council passed a controversial intergovernmental agreement that will merge the city's and Catoosa County's fire departments in the upcoming year.

The move will effectively lay off the city's 45 part-time firefighters. Steve Brandon, a 15-year volunteer firefighter in Fort Oglethorpe, said last week that many part-timers and volunteers were blindsided by talks of an agreement to remove the post.

All the city's full-time firefighters have met with the county to discuss receiving comparable salaries and equivalent rankings, positions and benefits, County Manager Alicia Vaughn said in a follow-up interview after the county approved the merger Nov. 5.

Payne-Simpkins was selected for her position with the city in February 2017, replacing Ron Goulart, whom then-Gov. Nathan Deal appointed as Catoosa County's state court judge in August 2016. Prior to taking on the city manager role, she was the fiscal management and solid waste division director in Gwinnett County, Georgia, for more than six years, and worked for the city of Savannah for four years before that.

During her tenure with Fort Oglethorpe, Payne-Simpkins has established a Parks and Recreation Department within the city, helped fund-raise for the city's first dog park, and facilitated talks for the county to absorb the city's fire department. The merger will save the city nearly $1 million in 2020.

Mayor Earl Gray was unavailable for immediate comment regarding the city's plan to replace Payne-Simpkins.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Contact Sabrina Bodon at 423-757-6423 or sbodon@timesfreepress.com.

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