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Clearing the Smoke and Mirrors of Merriwether Fire Training Center

A Column by the Editor
web posted July 1, 2011

COLUMN – I have watched as a small contingent of "concerned citizens" is growing furious over the Merriwether Volunteer Fire Department hoping to build a training facility at the Station 3 on Murrah Road. Some have continued to send comments to the Wandering Minds making false accusations and claims even though County Administrator Roger LeDuc penned an article last week in hopes of clearing up the confusion.

First off, the anonymous group (no one has put their name to anything) claims to have a petition but never produces such. If you are going to make claims against the fire department, own up the them, stand up and be counted and produce the petition. If this planned training facility is as dastardly as you claim, why hide? You are obviously saving the Merriwether Community and its residents from those firefighters and first responders trying hone their life-saving skills.

Secondly, this small group continues to speak of the dangers of oil, gas, and other fluids leaking from the junked vehicles that are used during extraction training. It has already been clearly explained that the vehicles contain no fluids and even the gas tanks have been removed. There is no fluid of any sort in the vehicles to leak out. DHEC makes sure of that.

Thirdly is the claim of smoke and health related issues from the use of burning vehicles for training. No vehicles or structures can be burned at the location. 
Fourth, the training facility will increase traffic making it dangerous to local residents driving in the area. Though this is probably the most fallacious point, it too needs to be addressed. MFD Station 3 is located on Murrah Road within a mile of the Merriwether Middle and Merriwether Elementary Schools with well over 1,000 students with half as many parents dropping their children off at school or picking them up afterwards twice a day, five days a week, for ten months of the year.

However, 40 or so firefighters driving on Murrah Road, three or four times a year, on the weekend, is going to create a traffic hazard. 

Now, if this group really wants to go after a planned project that will create a traffic hazard, they should concern themselves with the City of North Augusta's multi-million dollar park they plan to locate about a mile or so up the road. Where is your disdain in that case? North Augusta trying to take over Merriwether is obviously not one of their concerns. Hindering our local firefighters is.

Fifth is how this training facility is an urgent threat to the peaceful community. The Merriwether Fire Department is currently in the planning stages with the proposed training center. Note two words in that sentence, "proposed" and "planning". This is a dream that will be many years in the making, if (and it is a big if) it even comes to fruition. The truth of the matter is the Merriwether Fire Department does not have the money to build the facility.

They cannot increase taxes in order to raise the necessary funds and the county council is not going to give them a penny towards the facility.

Sixth is the noise pollution that firefighters training will cause to the peaceful country setting in the area. Firefighters using the Jaws of Life to cut apart vehicles on the weekend (again, 3 or 4 times a year), so that when a real person is trapped or near dying in a bad crash they know what to do, is too much noise. The "concerned citizens" make more noise when they cut their grass with their lawnmowers every weekend, not to mention weedeaters and blowers.

Lastly is the bullying tactic trying to be used with threats of voting out county council members if they allow this travesty to take place disrupting the tranquility of the Merriwether Community.

The County Council cannot stop the facility from being built, period.

Zoning allows it and if the state (ie: DHEC) gives their blessings, and has so far, the county cannot do anything to prevent the facility from being built. The county council cannot pass a new ordinance to disallow the facility unless they want to get sued and probably have to pay a settlement that could possibly fund its construction. 
I wonder, would these same people be so worried about traffic, noise, smoke, and other so-called problems when their house is on fire? "Well, that's what they (firefighters) are there for," they might say. Indeed it is, however; they have to train in order to be able to do so.

I firmly believe these same "concerned citizens" have no objection to anything the MFD does or its training. They just don't want it in their back yard. Someone else's is fine, just not theirs.

I get that, but at least be honest about your objections. Do not make up problems and distribute misinformation. Have an open and honest debate with those involved and try to reach a compromise that is suitable to all. Trying to pit elected officials, appointed officials, and public servants against each other is not productive and, in the end, will accomplish nothing more than pitting a few neighbors against each other.

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