OUR VIEW: Offer is enticing but valid concerns remain

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A proposal from Choctaw County to expand the agreement for HAZMAT protection is an interesting idea that deserves the serious attention city leaders are giving it.

Given the small number of HAZMAT-related accidents in the area, sharing resources and responsibilities with Choctaw County is a wise move. As city leaders say, it provides us with more equipment and more personnel without us having to spend what it would cost to develop our own HAZMAT team.

That said, we have two major concerns. First, and foremost, we believe city leaders should ensure that the Demopolis Fire Department has all the equipment we need to contain a HAZMAT spill until other resources can arrive. With the number of trucks and train cars that come through our area carrying hazardous materials, we need to be ready in the case of an accident.

Email newsletter signup

Furthermore, since the DFD provides the largest percentage of trained manpower to the existing regional HAZMAT team, it only makes sense that we also be able to house the most vital equipment. To ignore our contribution and send most of the money and equipment to Choctaw County would be foolish.

Second, we are concerned that Interim Fire Chief Tommy Tate was left out of the loop when this proposal was brought to the council&8217;s attention. While at least one councilman and the public safety director knew of the proposal, no one at the fire department was made aware what was going to take place at last week&8217;s council meeting.

This lack of communication is a dangerous &8212; not to mention annoying &8212; trend in our city government. More than that, how in the world can anyone expect our fire department to get excited about a cooperative agreement when they are snubbed during the initial proposal?

The lack of communication could be just an oversight, but not telling the fire chief or anyone at the fire department that an agreement that directly affects them would be put on the table is one heck of an oversight.

We sure hope this misstep does not ruin what could be a beneficial agreement for the city.