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Barrow will buy fire suits

WINDER -- Though the fate of its embattled chief remains uncertain, Barrow County's Emergency Services department continues to make strides.

At Tuesday's County Commission meeting, commissioners approved the latter portion of one federal grant and gave the department the go-ahead to apply for several others.

Specifically, the board voted to allow Emergency Services to move forward with the purchase of fire suits for roughly 47 of its 100-plus firefighters at a cost of about $80,000, as well as spending another $9,000 or so for training, pending federal reimbursement of about $71,000.

This comes amid the indefinite administrative leave of new Chief Donald Towne, following his arrest in Cairo three weeks ago for alleged theft of cable television services.

"There are deadlines for these grants, and we have to get them in," Interim Chief John Skinner said. "For morale, (the fire suits) have been huge."

In a separate development at Tuesday's meeting, commissioners continued to speak grimly about the county's ongoing financial straits. Following a presentation by county Chief Financial Officer Rose Kisaalita, which addressed Barrow's tentative $6 million gap between projected revenues and fiscal year 2011 spending, commissioners warned the gallery that, like in Gwinnett, tough decisions between cutting services or raising property taxes loom.

"It doesn't look good. It's bleak," Chairman Danny Yearwood told residents. "We've come to a point where we've got to do something. The only options this board has is we either cut service or we raise taxes.

"We as a board need to make sure we continue to supply the needs of this county."