If things go according to Jones County Fire Coordinator Kyle Brooks’ plans, a whole lot of Jones County property owners could soon be saving money on insurance rates.
“We could get to a Class 7 … we should be a 7,” he told the Board of Supervisors in the last regular meeting. “There are a couple of things the whole county is already doing but they were unaware to turn in.”
Brooks said he’s been in talks with the state Fire Rating Bureau in recent weeks. Most of the county is rated Class 8 in the system that is used to determine insurance rates based on the quality of the local fire service, and those areas are only a few points from being Class 7, he added.
“I’ve been trying to find out why we are where we are,” Brooks told supervisors. “I have a plan to get us to a 7 in about two months.”
Volunteer fire departments will need to turn in their standard operating procedures for review by the state Rating Bureau and have officials from that agency witness them shuttling water — a system by which tankers deliver a continuous stream of water to rural areas that aren’t served by fire hydrants.
“We can fix both problems and go to a 7 in 2020,” Brooks said.
Board President Johnny Burnett said, “That’s great. Records are what it’s all about. I’m proud you found something that wasn’t being done. We appreciate you.”
Burnett, a former volunteer firefighter, said, “We have the best fire department in Mississippi. These guys work for nothing because they love their county and they want to help their neighbors. We need to support them.”
Brooks said the shortcomings weren’t the fault of the volunteers or their departments’ chiefs.
“They’d never been told,” he said, quickly adding, “but I’m not laying blame on anyone.”
Only three Jones County communities that are served by volunteer fire departments have Class 7 ratings — Shady Grove, Sharon and Sandersville. A few areas that aren’t within close proximity of a fire department are Class 9 or 10. The Northeast Fire District — the Powers, Myrick and Mill Creek area — would be at Class 7 now if a Rating Bureau official had seen and timed their water-shuttling drill, Brooks said.
“They’ve been doing it, but no one witnessed it,” he said. “Someone from the county has to request them to come do that.”
Brooks is a longtime Laurel firefighter who was hired by the board in September to replace the retiring Dan McKenna.
The board also approved Sgt. J.D. Carter as the Jones County Sheriff’s Department’s fire investigator and they approved drug “buy money” for narcotics investigators to use in their operations.
Supervisor Larry Dykes asked Sheriff Joe Berlin if he’d received any correspondence from neighboring departments that had received items from the Jones County Sheriff’s Department’s inventory.
“It’s all been returned,” Berlin said.
Burnett added, “We can move forward now.”
In other matters, the board approved several appointments, including:
• Nikki Redd Walters to a five-year term to the Laurel-Jones County Library System Board;
• Mark Loftin to replace Russ Burnette, who resigned from the Jones County Parks and Recreation Board; Corey Dykes, Jerry “JJ” Cooley and Kirk Landrum were also appointed to the board;
• Supervisor David Scruggs (county official), Supervisor Travares Comegys (Twin Districts Workforce), Petey Barnett (private sector) and Larry Thomas (minority nominee) were all nominated by the board for roles in the South Mississippi Planning and Development District;
Supervisors also accepted the resignation of Albert Short from the Jones College board.
The board also approved 16th Section land leases from Heather Bell, Tim and Darlene Lee, and Shawn Nichols.