The new schedule comes as another required policy after Bartow County reached more than 100,000 residents. The schedule was adopted during the county commissioner’s Feb. 20 meeting. Fire Marshal Brian Cox said it was the product of researching nearby counties and their municipalities as Bartow County had never had anything like it before.
“Since we didn’t have anything this is a whole start-up,” said Cox. “What we’ve done is a lot of research with surrounding counties, surrounding municipalities ... and when I presented this to the chief and presented it to the county administration, I’d done all the background research.
“[I] showed them what Paulding was doing, what Floyd was doing, what Gordon was doing, what Cherokee was doing, what Cobb was doing and other departments around for Forsyth County, which is a measuring tool for us. It’s a lot similar in size and geographics and population.”
The result was a schedule Cox called “middle of the road” in terms of fee amounts.
On the Bartow County Fire Department’s website — www.bartowcountyfiredepartment.org — is a section displaying all fees and fines, such as a $100 fee for a plan review up to 5,000 square feet, $50 for certification inspections that do not fall under the state fire marshal’s purview and false alarm charges.
“This is a common practice and we’ve felt like it was the right thing to do because it’s a service that we’re providing that’s for the citizens and the owners and the occupants of businesses in our county. ... This is a reasonable charge,” said Cox.
The false alarm charges, which go up to $500 for the sixth and any subsequent false alarms, was something Cox emphasized.
“What we’re after, what we’re trying to deter, is people not maintaining these systems, because then it becomes they either unplug them all the way or ... we’re taking apparatuses and stations out of service responding to these calls when somebody else may have a true emergency that needs to be dealt with,” he said.
False alarm fees, Cox added, do not apply to those occurring during a thunderstorm or due to a power surge through an electrical system. Any false alarms that occur during building renovation, such as when a fire alarm system is expanding to fit the remodeled building, are exempt as well.
Cox urged business owners, and those interested in leasing a building, to contact his office before signing a contract. Under Georgia fire codes, no building is grandfathered into compliance. The type of business occupying the building determines which fire codes apply to the property, Cox said, and the business that occupied it before could have been listed under a different set of codes.
All fee payments, plan submissions and business license inspections, in addition to other related business, will be handled at the building inspector’s office at 135 W. Cherokee Ave., Cartersville. By rolling all the operations into one location, Cox said the county was attempting to create a “one stop, one shop” situation for county residents and those doing business in Bartow.
“Since we provide the service for that municipality, that’s the reason that it’s got to go through county government,” he said.
At the moment, Emerson and Adairsville have agreements with the county that the signatures related to business applications can be signed in the county office. Cox explained they took care of the municipalities who were growing the most first so his office could keep up with the economic growth. As businesses begin to move to the other municipalities, he continued, the county will reach agreements with them as well.
In the meantime, Cox thanked the municipal governments for their patience.
“I commend ... all our municipalities, everybody has been real receptive of this new process,” he said. “Are there going to be bumps in the road? Yes, there are. Are we going to find glitches and things that maybe seems like it’s out of whack a little bit? Yes, we will. But with a little patience, everybody’s patience, we’re working through it.
“... The main goal that we’re after is to make sure these buildings are as safe as they can be for the people [who are] in it and to reduce the fire loss that we have in our county.”