Highland Home business owners voice concerns

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 8, 2005

The word has spread of the possible closure of Highland Home's Fire and Rescue Department's transport services.

And the questionable fate of the department's distant future sets uneasy with local business owners and managers.

"I personally feel it will affect the community as a whole, businesses and residents," Highland Home Bank loan officer Jodie Tucker said. "It makes us feel unsafe."

The department, which was established in 1972, currently has only 17 volunteers, five of whom are over the age of 60 and two under 18 years of age. Only three of the volunteers are certified as paramedics and three more are certified as basic EMTs.

The department's only answer to the huge problem is to get more volunteers within the next 10 months when its operator's license expires in October. If not, the department will more than likely be forced to shut down its transport service. If that occurs, Fire Chief Richard Jordan said the fate of the department as a whole could follow suit.

One of the biggest problems besides lack of volunteers is the proximity of the fire station related to the residents of the community due to its rural setting.

"In Brantley, there are people that work and live in the town, they're right there," Jordan said. "They've got a more concentrated population right there around the response area. I live five miles from the station. We're just so rural that the numbers of people that reside within a reasonable driving distance of this station are so few that it's hard to get people to operate and be efficient at it. We might as well call a service out of another town. It's just as efficient."

Sanjay Patel, owner of the Highland Home Shell Station, fears the department's woes will reflect on insurance premiums.

"It's not going to be good for business," he said. "Luverne or Montgomery is going to be too far if something does go wrong. I fear that insurance won't be offered if it's closed or that premiums will go up. That's the basic necessity of a business."

It Don't Matter Restaurant Manager Pete Hayes echoes Patel's sentiments.

"It would affect us severely because without a fire department, it would raise insurance rates and we would have to have more fire safety equipment in house. It would be detrimental to the community."

As if the department's problems weren't already enough, some fuel will soon be added to the fire. Jordan said a couple of the older volunteers have already announced plans of retirement.

"I don't know that there is any one answer," Jordan said. "We don't have any real big medium outlet in this area. We have the newspaper and can put brochures up at businesses. Our campaign is to saturate the businesses with flyers, a different one every two weeks for the next two to three months. We want to make the community aware. If I'm allowed, I'm going to speak to the PTA and the Quarterback Club because it is an audience and it's people that live in the community. We want to call upon the business people and the churches in the area to let it be known to the people they serve that we need help. I could foresee a church taking on a person that maybe willing to spend some time to volunteer. It's a perfect opportunity."

Jimmy Jordan, owner of T&T Parts and Repair, is also concerned about the departments future. His main concern is the department's response time despite being located less than a half a mile from the fire station.

"It will lengthen the time of service for someone to get to us," he said. "It would be a shame if it did close. If we lose the service during the day, it would be good if they keep it at night."

If you would like to volunteer your time as a fireman, paramedic or to help out around the fire station, call Jordan at

537-4794, Jim Kull at 537-9610 or Larry White at 537-4249.

"Anything a business needs, we need it here," Jordan said. "We've got mechanic work, we need people who can write grants and need people to just help clean up."