The Georgia Emergency Management Agency has handpicked Gainesville to take on a significant responsibility.
During Thursday’s Gainesville City Council work session, Fire Chief Jon Canada said the city has been selected as a possible Georgia Search and Rescue Program host site.
“As we grow and times change, we respond to so much more than just fires,” Canada said. “This would involve a lot of work for me personally, but I think this would be a great asset for the county as a whole.”
In order to be a host site, Gainesville’s search and rescue team members must complete 400 hours of training each and the city would have to acquire a special truck outfitted with search and rescue equipment valued at $1.1 million.
The cost of the truck and training would be covered by GEMA, with no matching funds required from the city. Gainesville would own the truck and be required to maintain it.
According to Canada, the department would have the ability to use the truck at its discretion for daily calls, but ultimately its purpose is to respond to specific emergencies in GEMA’s 24-county area 1 region, which includes Hall, Jackson, Banks and White counties.
The council informally gave Canada permission to proceed.
The council on Thursday also pushed to the back burner the idea of using Hall Area Transit buses and bus shelters for commercial advertising.
The idea was introduced earlier this month by Hall County Commissioner Ashley Bell.
The county and city jointly fund the transit service, which is a subsidiary of the Community Service Center.
Phillippa Lewis Moss, director of the service center, presented the idea to the city council. A few obstacles hampered interest in the idea: Bus shelters would have to be connected to electricity for proper lighting; the buses would have to be fitted with frames to display the ads; and the council would have to adopt guidelines on which types of advertising would be allowed.
Because the transit system is funded jointly by the city and county with additional funding from the federal government, any revenue from the advertisements would have to be split three ways, Lewis Moss said.
Expected profits were too low and the unknown ability to attract willing advertisers was too great for the project to be feasible at this time, council members said.
“Right now, I don’t think it’s the right time,” Gainesville mayor Ruth Bruner said. “Maybe in a few years when ridership and the economy is doing better.”
Although the city isn’t currently on board with the commercial advertising idea, the group did leave the window open for possible nonprofit organization and government-sponsored ads.