Cobb County Government
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Emergency services reaccredited


Cobb County Fire and Emergency Services has successfully earned reaccreditation by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International. With this accreditation, Cobb County Public Safety now has Police, 911 Communications and Fire as accredited agencies.

New bridge to accomodate traffic to and from Fulton


Dignitaries, including U.S. Congressman Phil Gingrey and Cobb Chairman Tim Lee, gathered recently to break ground on the U.S. Highway 41 bridge project. alt

The bridge is a significant connection between Cobb and Fulton counties. This $18 million reconstruction and expansion project will greatly improve safety and traffic flow for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians crossing the Chattahoochee River.

Replacing the original bridge built in 1935, the new one will accommodate traffic growth in this busy commuting corridor and also complete Cumberland’s link to the 110-mile Silver Comet Trail.
 
Additional enhancements will include a new dock for boaters and fishermen, as well as modern stormwater management systems to minimize runoff into the Chattahoochee River.

Triple A' earned once again


Moody’s Investors Service recently reconfirmed its confidence in Cobb’s financial state by giving the county a "Triple A" bond status, its highest rating. Moody’s rating is based on the expectation that Cobb will have ample funds to repay its short-term debt, the county’s sizable, diverse economic and employment base, conservative fiscal management and a low debt burden.

Encore ends with singing star

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Country star Larry Gatlin, widely known for his performances with the Gatlin Brothers, is scheduled to close out the Encore series 8 p.m. Saturday, April 14. The Gatlin Brothers were one of the most successful country music acts of the 1970s and 1980s.

The Jennie T. Anderson Theatre is located at 548 South Marietta Parkway, Marietta. To purchase tickets or for more information, call 770-528-8490 or visit ticketmaster.com.

What a deal: Comparison shows public price benefits


Coupon clipping can save money, but Cobb homeowners can discover bigger values if they look at the county services they receive from their taxes.

The annual property tax per capita of a Cobb resident is $347.87, not including school or city taxes, according to the county finance office. This is roughly equal, or less, than the cost of a round-trip domestic plane ticket.

The total includes the following services and more:

County Department of Transportation workers take care of road maintenance and the airport at the yearly cost of $18.84. This compares favorably to the cost of a single oil change.

Public Safety, to include police, animal control and school patrols, costs $57.34 per year. Compare this to a single tank of gas for a mid-sized car.

For just $20.94 annually — less than the typical cost of a minor league baseball ticket with a hot dog and a drink — the Cobb Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department provides its services throughout the county.

All of the county library services are provided for $11.07 a year, about the cost of a new paperback book. Meanwhile, it costs $48.16 to run five court systems and 11 associated departments, which stacks up well compared to 15 minutes of billable time with an attorney.

Cobb County’s Community Development Agency is able to handle planning, business license, zoning, code enforcement, building inspections and erosion control for an average of $7.38 per capita. A homeowner could spend more on a box of nails.

The services and requirements completed by the Tax Commissioner and Tax Assessor’s Offices cost $10.16. This value is only slightly more than a book of first class stamps.
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The Cobb and Douglas Health Department takes care of thousands of residents each year at a cost of $3.30 – substantially less than the price of a typical bottle of aspirin.

While fire and emergency services use a majority of the tax bill, the actual cost per capita is only $104.11 to provide firefighters with the best equipment and training. This seems like a small price tag when contrasted with the expense of outfitting the average home with smoke detectors.

Likewise, one can compare the cost of a few months of service by a home security system to the $58.05 it takes for the Sheriff’s Office to maintain the jail, other detention facilities, as well as civil and criminal court services.

For more information about Cobb County services, go to the Web site cobbcounty.org and watch government access channel Cobb TV.
 

The best way to prepare for the worst

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A Cobb County firefighter climbs a ladder to the fourth story of the Public Safety training tower during a March 20 exercise.


By Gary A. Witte
CobbLine Staff

A firefighter’s workday has three main components: emergencies, routine and training.

Any one of these can fill a day, but the public may not be aware just how full 24 hours can become for members of Cobb County Fire and Emergency Services.

“The job has changed a lot in the 30 years I’ve been here,” Battalion Chief Chuck Carter of Kennesaw said. “The fire services handle any type of emergency that no one else will go to.”

Since 1981, both Cobb’s population and the number of firefighters working for the county has more than doubled, according to the department. However, the firefighters now respond to 10 times the number of calls – going from 4,777 in 1981 to 47,339 emergency calls during the last year.

The hours spent in these crises does not include the training needed to deal with them. Cobb firefighters are required to complete 291 hours of annual training along with their normal duties, officials said.

“That’s two to three hours a shift, just to meet the minimum,” Field Technician John Bennett of Adairsville said. “It’s still a good job, but it is a job.”

Those who work in special units, such as the Hazmat or Technical Rescue Teams, train even when it isn’t required. The Technical Rescue team members based at Station 14 near Marietta and Station 4 near Smyrna are constantly working to train current and newer members to maintain their expertise.

“It’s going to serve the citizens better to have these guys trained in this stuff,” Capt. John Redwine, one of the leaders of the Technical Rescue Team, said during a March 20 exercise at North Cobb High School. “Logistically, it’s very hard to make this happen. We’re still running calls in addition to the class. We’ve always got to be multitasking.”
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During the training, instructors and students practiced lowering and raising patients from atop a 40-foot high tower. The firefighters receiving the instruction in high angle rescues took turns being the patient.

Should a real world call come in, firefighters on the ground would respond to the call and the exercise would halt.

“When you take care of that, you go back to your original task,” Redwine said. “There’s a good bit we do to keep things running. None of that stops.”

Similarly, at Station 8 in Kennesaw, members of the county Hazmat Team conducted modified cross training to get ready for an upcoming physical fitness test. The exercise functioned as both preparation as well as stress relief, firefighters said.

“We try to do it every shift, but depending on call volume, we don’t always get to it,” Lt. Gray Ellis of Douglasville said. “There’s not a lot of monotony here.”

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Firefighters work a 24-hour shift, starting just before dawn.

At Station 28 in Acworth, Battalion Chief Scott Demkowski of Powder Springs finished his shift by discussing training, personnel and equipment issues with Carter as part of the daily handover. Bennett, as accountability officer, called the eight stations within Battalion 4 to see who was there and who wasn’t.

Work schedules are mapped out a year in advance. An absence can result in a change in truck seating, which the leadership uses to track where their firefighters are during a crisis. Each vehicle requires a minimum staffing to be considered mission capable.

“When you’ve got 49 people, there’s always something going on,” Carter said.

The first thing a newcomer might notice is the constant background voice of the radio dispatcher. Calls to other stations on the intercom drift past without comment. A special tone informs the firefighters if their station is the one assigned to the emergency.

Throughout the day, no matter where Carter and Bennett go to visit stations in the battalion, the radio follows with calls about alarms, injuries, car wrecks and more.

Most calls Cobb Fire and Emergency Services responded to last year were medical emergencies, with a requirement that basic life support unit be there within five minutes of being dispatched.

The next largest category of emergencies include brush fires, vehicle accidents, dealing with hazardous materials and other emergencies. Less than 1 percent of the calls were for structure fires, according to the department.

Recruits go through seven months of training before they ever ride in a truck, Bennett said. Even afterwards, preparing for the job never stops.

Bennett said firefighters must meet state and county requirements to keep their lifesaving skills fresh. For example, although a CPR certification is good for two years, Cobb firefighters have to get it renewed every year.

“It’s things you should already know, but you have to go out and practice them,” Bennett said.

That same evening, three stations gathered at the Cobb County Public Safety Training Center for mandatory night training. The exercise called for firefighters to enter the smoke-filled training tower, hook hoses into the water system and simulate putting out a fire. When the windows and doors are closed, the four-story structure’s interior is sealed in darkness, leaving firefighters to rely on their personal flashlights to make their way through.

Once responders were in the building, the mission changed and they had to find and rescue a fellow firefighter in the dark. The scenario ran several times over several hours, with rescuers having to enter by truck ladder into the top floor, the bottom floor and then having to share their air system with the “victim.”

Capt. Dwan Patterson of Dallas, who set up and led the exercise, talked with the firefighters afterwards about the successes and problems which arose during the scenarios. As a group, they discussed the importance of practicing with equipment they don’t use all the time.

“If we shortcut things, we’re not going to be prepared when things are really bad,” Patterson said.