Tifton sues Tift Co. over fire department - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Tifton sues Tift Co. over fire department

There's controversy between the city of Tifton and Tift County about who comes to the rescue during emergencies. (Source: WALB) There's controversy between the city of Tifton and Tift County about who comes to the rescue during emergencies. (Source: WALB)
As a result, the city has filed a lawsuit against the county. (Source:  WALB) As a result, the city has filed a lawsuit against the county. (Source: WALB)
"The cooperation between the Tifton and Tift County fire department when it was joint and the EMS was very good and they worked well together," said Rob Wilmot, city attorney. (Source: WALB) "The cooperation between the Tifton and Tift County fire department when it was joint and the EMS was very good and they worked well together," said Rob Wilmot, city attorney. (Source: WALB)
"It's never a good thing to settle something in court and we understand that," said Hunter Walker, Tifton interim city manager. (Source: WALB) "It's never a good thing to settle something in court and we understand that," said Hunter Walker, Tifton interim city manager. (Source: WALB)
TIFT CO., GA (WALB) -

There's controversy between the city of Tifton and Tift County about who comes to the rescue during emergencies.

As a result, the city has filed a lawsuit against the county.

For the past 15 years, Tifton and Tift County have operated under a joint fire department.

About a year ago, the county decided it no longer wanted to do that.

As a result, both departments are showing up at accident scenes.

"The cooperation between the Tifton and Tift County fire department when it was joint and the EMS was very good and they worked well together," said Rob Wilmot, city attorney.

When the county decided it no longer wanted a joint fire department, city administrators thought they would be the ones to send their fire trucks to calls, and the county would send an ambulance.

"We did not think it was going to be a problem," said Wilmot.

Since July 1st, two crews have responded to emergency calls inside the city limits.

"What has happened is that has created just mass confusion at the scene of a collision," said Wilmot.

The city filed a lawsuit stating it's illegal for the county to provide services in the city without a contract.

But that's what the interim city manager said the city had to do.

"It's never a good thing to settle something in court and we understand that," said Hunter Walker, Tifton interim city manager.

No one from Tift County would go on camera, but the county manager released a statement saying in part "Georgia law obligates Tift County to perform the services in this EMS zone."

As of right now, people living within the city are paying for both the county fire department and the city one.

"You always hope it is resolved and resolved amicably. We all serve the same taxpayer and someone they expect us to figure out a way to make it work.," said Walker.

Now the decision is in the hands of the superior court. 

Full statement from Tift County:

Tift County has provided ambulance and emergency services to the citizens of Tift County since 1972. In 2015, the County took steps to greatly enhance patient care and the overall public safety for every Tift County citizen. The enhanced public safety service was launched in July 2016 and included increased emergency medical care for all citizens, along with increased fire protection for citizens in unincorporated Tift County, Ty Ty, and Omega. This service has materially and positively impacted the lives of our residents.

The County’s legally mandated obligation to provide quality medical care is rooted in our status as the designated zone provider for emergency medical incidents. Moreover, we believe that Georgia law obligates Tift County to perform the services in this EMS zone. In contrast, we believe the same laws prohibit any other entity, governmental or private sector, from providing these services as long as Tift County is the certified emergency zone licensee. Inexplicably, the City of Tifton objects to our decision to provide all residents of this County with a higher level of emergency medical care. The County’s actions over the past 30 days have turned what heretofore were mere aspirations, into an effective and cutting-edge system for emergency medical services.

Tift County fully embraces our legal responsibility to act in the best interest of our citizens. With over 50 expertly trained medical and rescue personnel we are uniquely qualified to deliver this mandated service. It is for these reasons that we will endeavor to continue to provide the best possible emergency medical service to all citizens in Tift County.

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