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      Ben Hill finds agreement with volunteers

      Commissioners meet with volunteer fire officials about a new contract.

      First Update (9/11/13)The Ben Hill County Board of Commissioners has approved a new agreement with the Ben Hill Volunteer Fire Department, Inc according to a press release issued by county officials.

      The Volunteer Fire Department will continue to operate from its 6 established fire stations using County-owned fire trucks. The contractor will provide the same fire protection services to the citizens in the unincorporated areas of the County as it has routinely been doing.

      The 1-year agreement was reached Tuesday, following months of negotiations, and includes an increase in the fees being paid the contractor. The County Commission was able to resolve its concerns about the ownership and use of fire equipment.

      The National Fire Services Office, a separate contractor, is evaluating the water system and developing a plan to upgrade fire protection County-wide. Skip Starling, a nationally-recognized fire safety expert, is preparing a 50-year engineering drought study and a 5-year fire protection improvement plan for the Commission.

      The Ben Hill County Commission is now able to focus on the future, said Chairman Philip C. Jay, III. We want to ensure that every structure in Ben Hill County has credible fire protection, and that we reduce the cost of home insurance premiums for all our citizens.Initial StoryThe Ben Hill County Commission met Tuesday, working out a contract agreement with their volunteer fire department.

      For months the commission has been locked in a dispute with volunteer fire officials about ownership of equipment among other issues, and finally came to an agreement Tuesday.

      "The commission finally voted to approve the contract, and authorized the chairman to sign it. It'll go to the volunteer fire department, their board will meet Thursday, and I don't see a reason why we wouldn't have it signed," said County Manager, Frank Feild.

      Feild says this is a major move and will allow for continued fire safety in all corners of the county.