At Issue: Should Canton and Cherokee merge fire department operations?


Last week: Like some other metro cities, should Cobb cities offer same-sex health benefits?

Smyrna is considering giving health and other benefits to spouses of city employees in same-sex marriages. The city council delayed a vote on the issue until Jan. 5. Smyrna and Cobb’s five other cities are in compliance with a federal IRS mandate in 2013 requiring employees in same-sex marriages to have survivor retirement benefits. The ruling doesn’t cover health benefits. Smyrna is the first city in Cobb County to consider extending employee benefits. The city has studied the issue for a year, looking at other metro Atlanta cities that have added health benefits for same-sex couples and waiting to see if other municipalities are considering the issue. The city has also asked for public comment at council meetings to determine public sentiment on health benefits for employees in legally recognized marriages. At an Oct. 20 meeting, two residents spoke in favor of adding the benefits and two spoke against the measure.

Here are the responses:

"I am completely opposed to passing a law in the city that is in violation of a legally constituted law in our state. If we live in this state and abide by state laws, I do not understand why the city needs to take a lead on this. What is the urgency when same-sex marriage is not legal in Georgia." — Al Graves

"This issue is a personal one for me and receiving my partner's health benefits has been a blessing. "I've been living with this issue, a walking issue, for many years and I have had experience with illness and not having health insurance. We get up everyday hoping our elected officials are thinking about what is the right thing to do for people." — Helen Slaven

"We should have a referendum on this issue and that would solve the problem where the city sits on this issue. Clearly people need to express their opinions one way or other. I am adamantly against this. This state doesn't recognize same-sex marriage and it clearly states in the Bible that a marriage is between a man and a woman." — Alex Backry

"Adding health and other benefits for these couples would be good for the community. It will be a legal right for same-sex couples to marry in Georgia in the near future. We can show that we are behind the curve or that we are a progressive adaptive city and willing to step forward." — Thomas Greggs

-- Tucker McQueen for the AJC

Should the city of Canton and Cherokee County merge some or all of their respective fire department operations?

Canton city and Cherokee officials have debated the matter for years. Proponents have pushed potential cost and operational benefits plus some service duplication elimination. Opponents have worried that a merger might cost the city more in the long run and lead to longer response times.

Outright consolidation’s not on the table at the moment, but city and county officials are weighing a smaller-scale joining of forces as the city plans to build a new fire station in the Laurel Canyon area of northwest Canton in 2015. Mayor Gene Hobgood wants to have the station staffed by Cherokee County firefighters, who would move to the new digs from a nearby, outdated county station. Hobgood also says that under the deal, the county would station an ambulance at the new facility, providing enhanced medical emergency coverage. Hobgood says the savings would be about $750,000 annually-money that could be used to beef up manpower elsewhere in the city department.

Canton City manager Glen Cummins says, however the savings would be minimal. He says under the proposal, the county would require the city to staff a ladder company at the new station. He says the resulting personnel savings would be zero, and that the operational savings would amount to only about $100,000 annually. He also says having city and county firefighters at the same facility would also present logistical problems with scheduling.

What do you think about the city and county joining fire efforts? Post your opinion here or e-mail us at communitynews@ajc.com.